Festival Etiquette for Directors 101, Part II 

Good concert/festival behavior is learned, and it is the director’s responsibility to teach it. If not the music teacher, who will teach the students about acceptable festival etiquette? 

A good teacher of festival etiquette… 

  1. Acts professionally as a model to students. 
  1. Includes expectations for chaperones as well as students. 
  1. Teaches students about when to applaud as audience members. (When the conductor’s arms have come all the way down to his/her side). 
  1. Teaches stage deportment:  Practice how to enter the stage and behave before the first downbeat.   
  1. Go quietly to their location. 
  1. No conversation at this time. 
  1. Look at the audience during applause. 
  1. Show respect and attention to the director. 
  1. Understands that a warm-up is not a rehearsal.  Abide by the festival’s schedule and leave warm-up and enter the stage on time. If onstage tuning is needed, keep it brief.  Remember – by tuning on stage, you are pointing out your group’s difficult passages to the adjudicators.  
  1. Times his/her music.  Do not assume that going over your allotted time will be viewed positively by adjudicators or other schools.  By timing your music, you show consideration for the judges, the festival staff, and other schools who have time constraints with busing and other issues. 
  1. Acknowledges applause with a smile and a bow and an acknowledgement of his/her performers.  
  1. Has featured students or sections stand and face the audience during applause. 
  1. Utilizes positivity.    When your students leave the warm-up room, make sure they leave on an encouraging note.  
  1. Uses the power of words to inspire students to perform their very best.  

Festival Etiquette for Students 101, Part I 

We get it.  Students are just now getting back into performance venues after a covid hiatus.  What could be a better time than to review basic etiquette for young musicians who are performing AND listening to the festival performers.  Explain to your students that everyone has worked very hard to get to this event.  By practicing good festival etiquette, your students will reap the benefits during their performance AND help the other performers by being considerate audience members. 

A good festival participant… 

  1.  Visits the restroom before being seated. 
  1. Silences electronic devices before the performance.   This means, don’t answer your cell phone during a performance. 
  1. Never texts during a performance – the screen on your device lights up and creates a distraction.  
  1. Does not talk during the performances. 
  1. Is kind to all performers, whether inside the theatre or outside.  You are not rivals competing for a million-dollar prize.  You are supporters of every student’s musical journey, regardless of their ages or abilities. 
  1. Absolutely does not eat or drink inside the theatre. 
  1. Keeps feet off on the back of seats. 
  1. Learns when to applaud (and when not to applaud.) 
  1. Understands that a festival is not a sporting event.  Screaming, whistling, and shouting is unacceptable. 
  1. Never enters or exits the theatre while an ensemble is performing. 
  1. Remains seated during a group’s entire performance. 
  1.  Does not sing along during a performance (unless your choir is onstage performing). 
  1.  Enjoys the performances! 

Overnight Trips- Terms and Tricks to Know

Photo by Joao Marcelo Martins

Planning an overnight trip can be daunting. Luckily, we have a team of experts happy to help ensure your planning process is as seamless as possible. Whether you’re considering your first overnight trip, or you are a seasoned veteran, we’ve compiled a helpful list of terms and tricks you should know: 

RFP or RFQ: This is where it all starts- a RFP (Request for Proposal) or RFQ (Request for Quote) is how you can submit your details and ideas for a trip to get the planning process started. Your request should include contact information, destination, trip dates, activities, and a rough estimate of participants.  If you have a budget in mind, please include this as well! 

Package: Your package is everything that the Forum team is handling for you- this includes your festival and any theme parks, shows, attractions, or dining experiences that you have asked us to arrange. Unless otherwise specified, your transportation costs are usually not included in this number and will be noted as a separate quote.  

Peak Season: This refers to the busiest times of the season. There are several factors that can play into the peak season- spring breaks, local conferences or events at your destination, and more can play into what is considered “Peak.”   

Tour Escort: Some groups do choose to include a tour escort in their package- this is an expert on the ground who can help guide your group from location to location, helping to check in at your attractions, share tips and tricks, and make sure your trip runs smoothly. 

Your Trip Assistant: We provide this automated texting service for all our overnight trips (unless you choose to opt out). Like a tour escort, this service will remind you of upcoming activities with addresses, entry time, bus loading times, and any other helpful information you may need to know beforehand. This service is completely complimentary for our overnight clients and is a great way to stay on track throughout your travels!  

Bus Hour Regulations: When planning your trip, we may refer to bus hour limitations which affect how far it is safe to travel within a day based on government regulations . In accordance to these laws, “No motor carrier of passengers shall permit or require any passenger-carrying CMV driver to drive more than 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty, or for any period after having been on duty 15 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty.” If you are ever unsure that your trip may violate these regulations, be sure to share your itinerary with your transportation provider or let us arrange your transportation so that we may communicate directly with bus providers to ensure a safe trip!  

Attrition: Some activities or hotels charge an attrition penalty if a group utilizes a smaller portion of services than originally contracted. We understand changes occur in student travel and will accommodate changes to your package to the best of our ability. When we provide pricing, it is based on current availability, fees & taxes based on the total number of participants (students, chaperones, & educators).  If that number changes, we may re-price your package to adjust prorated costs, etc. Please note that if the package is re-priced due to attrition, it will likely increase the per person price by just a few dollars. 

Rooming List: Your rooming list is the assignment of each traveling participant to a room. The rooming assignments are a vital way to confirm the number of participants on your trip and where they will be for an added level of security and accountability.  

CSTP: CSTP or Certified Student Travel Professional is a recognition that “provides credibility amongst student travel professionals and their clients.” We are proud to have several members of our staff honored with this recognition or working towards it to ensure that you are receiving the highest quality of service and stay up to date on travel trends and restrictions to ensure your trip is as smooth as possible.  

Complimentary: Whenever you see complimentary noted on your proposal, this means that the indicated experience comes at no cost to you! Your Trip Assistant (our automated texting service) is a great example. We are also pleased to continue to offer a complimentary director’s package, which will always include a recording of your group’s performance, single occupancy room and breakfast, and admission to all activities for the director. 

These are just a few of the most common terms that you may see when planning your trip, but please know that our staff is always here and happy to help with questions that you may have! We are here to make your planning process as easy as possible, and we hope you’re ready to get started with a quote today!

The Importance of Accurate Contact Information

For our returning directors, you may notice a change this year as you’re completing your stage set-up sheet: the addition of your cell phone number and an offsite emergency contact. We know it can be difficult to give out your personal cell with today’s landscape of spam calls and scammers becoming more and more frequent. We get it – some days it feels like we get more spam calls than anything else! However, have you considered how important this information is in crucial situations? Through our 29 years of hosting festivals, we’ve seen it all! Here are just a few examples of why these pieces of information can be crucial at a festival.

A student is left behind. In spite of buddy systems, chaperone counts, and your best efforts- it can happen! A student who may have been in the restroom doesn’t have a way to contact you. We once saw a group leave the festival before realizing a student was left behind. Without a cell phone number, our festival manager had no way to contact the director. Finally, the group turned the bus around to come back for the student left behind.

There is a medical emergency. Festival days are busy, and we know you can’t be everywhere at once. If you are directing multiple ensembles and there is a medical emergency with another student, it is crucial to have yours and an off-site emergency contact’s information to inform and ensure students (or directors) receive proper care.

Schedule changes/Transportation complications. Delays happen, and often we know it is out of your control. Perhaps your bus shows up late or drives to the wrong location. We know you have a million plates spinning in those scenarios, but if we do not hear from you and have no way to contact you, it can be hard to know how to proceed. Your group could be 5 minutes away, or 50 minutes away and without that context, we may have to shift your performance schedule around to accommodate other groups. Having cell information allows us to connect and make the best decision for everyone participating.

These are just a few of the typical scenarios we’ve seen through the years – but there are plenty! Please consider the ways in which having up-to-date contact information can benefit you and your students when the unforeseen becomes a reality. Keep in mind, your emergency contact and cell phone information will NEVER be given out to others or sold. The information you provide is confidential and will only be used in emergency circumstances. If you ever have questions, we’re just an email or call away at 888-763-6786. We look forward to working together for a stress-free festival season!

Student Travel Planning on a Budget 

What is more exciting for your music program than planning a trip together? 

A trip is a surefire way to recruit new students and keep experienced students.  Combining music education and fun is just not that difficult.  But most school music programs are mindful of budgetary concerns for students and their families. Let’s check out a couple of tips to get you started. 

  1. Find an experienced travel planner to help you from the get-go.  Of course, we’re going to say this, but it’s true that an experienced travel professional knows the best options to keep your budget in line, but also plan for the safest and most secure hotels, attractions, and areas for your group.  At Forum we have long-standing relationships with hotels and attractions that keep pricing low. 
  1. Plan early and often.  As the great Yogi Berra said, “It gets late early out there.”  Getting an early start on travel planning allows… 
  • more time to fundraise,  
  • better availability at hotels and attractions,  
  • better selection of your preferred dates, and 
  •  best rates for everything! 
  1. Be Flexible!  Maybe your budget just can’t include every little expensive excursion you’d like to include.  Fun doesn’t come in just one size.  Let us know and we’ll provide a flurry of great, value-conscious suggestions. Alternate activities can be surprisingly popular.   
  1. Team up!  Consider inviting another music teacher in your district to join in on your trip. You have not only doubled your base of support with a partner, but you can also share certain costs such as filling a larger bus or maximizing hotel rooms to reduce the per person costs. 
  1. Chowtime on the cheap!  Feeding a pack of hungry teenagers can be a daunting task.  See this short-list of mealtime winners: 
  • Offered at theme parks or touristy areas, meal vouchers are a great on-your-own option for students. 
  • Food courts at malls – most larger shopping centers feature a food court where students can buy what they like with their own money. 
  • College cafeterias.  Most Forum Festivals are held on college campuses.  Check out the options at their cafeteria since they are set up for low-budget, hungry college students. 
  • Box lunches and Pizza.  Plan ahead to deliver box lunches or pizza to a nearby park or open destination.  Our staff can help with setting this up.   

Planning early and planning ahead ensures a great shot at a successful trip because you’ll have a good picture of your costs.  We’re here to help.  Contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com to get started or Request a Quote (website link) at no obligation.   

Not all classrooms have four walls.  Give it a go and start planning a great trip filled with musical memories! 

Fundraising 101

Fundraising is a crucial step in the planning process of your school year and the rewarding festivals and events your students will get to enjoy. There can be a lot of questions for fundraisers- where do you start? What do you consider? What ideas work best? Truth is, it all depends on your school and group – you’re the expert, but we’re here to help with a step-by-step guide! 

  1. Determine how much your desired activities will cost. Whether it is a one-day festival or an overnight trip, having a clear goal will be critical in helping you determine what fundraisers will work best and when you need to start. Having a number in mind can also help to motivate and inspire. Who doesn’t love to watch as you fill your fundraising meter each week closer and closer to your goal?!  
  1. Get parents involved. Parents can bring experience and great ideas to the table for unique and engaging fundraisers. Getting parents involved early on can help the process be smooth and successful. You can even designate a fundraising committee with your most designated parents to take on the bulk of the planning process!  
  1. Know your deadlines. Work with your travel planner or provider to determine when invoices are due and how much will need to be collected. It’s always a good idea to add more time for straggling payments, deposit turnaround, and preparation.  
  1. Get your students’ involved with planning. Want your students to participate? Include them in the planning process! Enlist their suggestions and take their ideas into consideration. This applies for both the fundraisers themselves and the activity you’ve set. If you’re planning a trip that everyone is excited for, it will create enthusiasm and motivation. By that same philosophy, if you select fundraiser ideas that no one is inspired by, it may be harder to keep students’ involved with the process.  
  1. Get inspired! These days, fundraisers are so much more than going door-to-door and selling wrapping paper. For music groups especially, you have the edge of unique fundraising offers that no one else has! 99Pledges suggests giving music lessons, running a Practice-a-thon (think walk-a-thon but for rehearsing), or hosting a Battle of the Bands! In the age of crowdfunding, there s also the option to use platforms like Gofundme.com to expand your efforts.  

Fundraising might not be the thing you look forward to at the start of every year, but with proper planning and the right support, you can feel confident and maybe even excited about the engaging fundraisers you have planned! Plus, we’re always in your corner ready to help with ideas and planning! Request a quote today to get started on step one!  

The Benefits of Booking Early 

At this time of year, travel planners are probably encouraging you to book your 2024 student trip now.  Take note – booking at the start of the school year definitely has benefits for your trip.   

With early planning… 

  1. Your current students get a glimmer of what’s ahead!  Excitement builds and motivates students! 
  1. More time for fundraising and more time for your students’ families to budget for the trip means higher participation. 
  1. Your travel planner has more leverage to book hotels, buses, and attractions at a lower rate.  Waiting till closer to your travel date makes fewer choices available and can increase your trip costs. 
  1. Your group has a better shot in reserving the attractions that you want.  For example, Disney Imagination Campus offers wonderful workshops and performances in the parks, but many of the popular dates fill up a year in advance. 
  1. Your performing group has more rehearsal time and more time to prepare. 
  1. You get your first choice date and destination. 

Start planning and talking up the trip with your students now!  You have everything to win and nothing to lose!  Give us a call at 1-888-763-6786 to discuss ideas and destinations.  Let’s get started on a memorable trip for your program!   

What to Know About Travel Insurance

There’s no doubt that considering travel insurance is a trend that has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 Pandemic, and with good reason! Forbes estimated that half of Americans lost between $500-$1500 in 2021 because of cancelled trips, so purchasing travel insurance for your group is definitely worth consideration. However, it can be hard to navigate the terminology in your coverage and understanding exactly which insurance is right for you. Rest assured that Forum is here to help!  

We are partnered with C&F Travel Insured International and can easily add insurance as an optional add-on for individual participants upon request for a seamless experience. Founded in 1994, they have incredible resources like this terminology guide as well.      

Let us ensure that your 2024 trip is covered for the unexpected! Please contact us for pricing and options. 

10 Celebrities Who Play Musical Instruments

Learning to play a musical instrument takes hard work, dedication, and lots of practice. It can be hard to keep students engaged in the early stages of learning to read music and stay committed. However, there is a long list of great musicians and even celebrities who have made that commitment to practice before them! Check out this list (original post from TheThing) of these talented celebrities who made that commitment in their school years! Maybe it can even inspire your students to keep the music playing!

  1. Steve Martin can play the banjo
  2. Clint Eastwood can play the piano
  3. Ryan Gosling can play the piano
  4. Bradley Cooper can play the guitar
  5. Robert Downey Jr. can play the violin
  6. Meryl Streep can play the violin
  7. Bruce Willis can play the harmonica
  8. Keanu Reeves can play the bass guitar
  9. Halle Berry can play the flute
  10. Julia Roberts can play the clarinet

Read the full, original post from TheThing.com here.

Did You Know?

We have been enriching students lives through performance for 27 years! We welcome returning groups and new groups every year! Whether you are brand new or a Forum Festivals veteran, here’s a quick list of the services we can provide your group during the festival and beyond. Did you know…

  • You can choose other activities instead of a theme park? We offer customized one-day and overnight trips along with festivals- let us help to mix up your festival day with a Broadway show or symphony, family-style meal at Buca di Beppo, and more!
  • You can enjoy ae theme park on a different date from the festival.
  • We have suggestions for public performances outside the festival. We’ll arrange a Disney Imagination Campus experience, Universal Studios, and many more opportunities to enhance your experience!
  • We can arrange a clinic for your group with a college clinician.
  • Dress code is not a factor in judging.
  • If you need a charter bus quote, we can assist. We will ensure your group is safe in good hands with only the most reputable companies.
  • We offer optional travel insurance through Travel Insured.
  • We do not have an approved music list.  You can select whatever music that is appropriate for your groups ability!
  • You receive recorded and written adjudication at the festival through AirDrop or you may select to have them emailed.

    If you have more questions, we’re always here to help! Send us an email or click here to get your group registered! We look forward to seeing your groups at our festivals.

    Updates to the Knott’s Chaperone Policy

    Knott’s has recently announced another change to their group chaperone policies moving forward. As of February 3, no wristbands will be required and the 1:10 chaperone ratio, although recommended, is not required moving forward.

    Knott’s will continue to request chaperone names and mobile numbers for student groups. The chaperone policy will only be implemented when deemed necessary by operational policies and security protocols.

    To learn more, visit Knott’s full Code of Conduct here.

    Conference Season Is Here!

    We’re so excited to be back representing Forum Music Festivals and Forum Educational Travel this conference season!

    We will be at the Arizona Music Educators Association (AMEA) Conference February 3-4, 2023 at the Mesa Convention Center. Be sure to stop by and say hello to Gary and Michelle Wampler at our booth!

    After that, you can find us at the CASMEC Conference February 16-18 in Fresno! Be sure to stop by our booth in the exhibit hall to say hi to Becky and Matt!

    These conferences are an excellent opportunity for both students and educators alike, offering networking opportunities, chances to see other ensembles, and experience enriching presentations. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for latest info on our whereabouts at both events. We look forward to seeing you there!

    Organizing a Student Trip 

    You want to share your love of music while inspiring your students.  But where do you begin?  At Forum Music Festivals, we’ve set up thousands of overnight trips for music students.  Travel embraces learning, fun, and unforgettable reminiscences all wrapped in one trip. We’ve got a few suggestions to share. 

    Photo by Amy Hirschi, courtesy of Unsplash
    •  Talk, Talk, Talk.  Start the conversation rolling with administration, parents, students, and other teachers who have taken trips with students.  Learn the ins and outs of district requirements.  And determine whether there is an interest in traveling among your music students.   
    • Where do students want to go?  A trip won’t happen if students aren’t excited about the destination.  Once a destination is defined, promote it everywhere!!  In the classroom, at booster meetings, in newsletters, on your voice mail!!  If you can wrap the destination into the content of other academic subjects, you’ll enhance your students’ experience PLUS another teacher may help you promote the trip.  
    • Find a tour operator or travel planner.  You are a newbie at this – you need an experienced tour operator with contacts, networking, and suggestions for a stress-free experience.  Collaboration is key – share what you want but be open to new ideas.  We would love to help you on some awesome trip ideas.  www.forummusicfestivals.com or www.forumtravel.org
    • How will we pay for the trip?  Give yourself and your students plenty of time to raise the funds for the trip.  Numerous fundraising ideas exist out there, but sometimes funding is available for the asking.  Perform for various community groups around town or new store openings.  Maybe your music students can “sing for their supper,” so to speak and use their talents to raise money.  Host a spaghetti dinner or a pancake breakfast with entertainment.  Host a silent auction with entertainment, of course.  Or just “fill the bucket” by passing around a bucket during football half time shows.   
    • Think it out.  Set deadlines for sign-ups.  Ask for “good faith” deposits from the families.  Plan, plan, plan, but allot some transfer time to get a group from Point A to Point B.  Your students will appreciate some downtime for shopping, eating, and just being together with their friends. 
    • Just have fun.  If you have fun, your happy, genial attitude tells your students that they can relax and have fun, too.  They are making memories here.  And so are you! 

    Keeping Music in Play at Your School

    Have you ever thought about the dizzying number of hats worn by music teachers?

    · Teacher of music (goes without saying)

    · Pep band organizer

    · Budget planner

    · Recruiter

    · Rehearsal or sectional leader

    · Booster club overseer

    · Accompanist

    · Show designer

    · Music librarian

    · Performer of gigs

    · Private instructor

    Let’s talk about one of the most important gigs – Music Department Publicist.

    Doesn’t seem obvious and isn’t something you learned in college, right? But consider this – student musicians deserve just as much recognition as student athletes, student scientists, and student thespians. You and your musical colleagues owe it to your students to keep music in the forefront of the minds of parents, the community, and administration. Sad to say, music education is regarded as fluff in many districts. Decision makers don’t always see the value in arts education of developing the whole person. As the music teacher at your school, the tools at your disposal will keep the melody playing.

    Some things to think about:

    · Use the LED display outside school to announce auditions, recognize graduating senior musicians, or post the school concert calendar

    · Your ensemble should perform at school at every possible opportunity – singing happy birthday to teachers, staff, or administrators, caroling the classrooms at Holidays, performing during lunch breaks or assemblies. Back to School Night or Open House is a great way to show off your students’ developing skills.

    · Use the P.A. system at school to feature drum major announcements, important solo/ensemble results, or other highpoints of musical competitions and festivals.

    Of course, if you put your ensemble front and center, you must strive for excellence. Students want to be part of something outstanding. Producing a solid result in your ensemble will give your school community bragging rights about their music programs. Siblings of your current students will choose to join in on the musical magic. Travel to your local elementary or middle schools to give them a taste of musical prowess so they can join in the fun.

    Local papers and other avenues of communication are always looking for community tidbits. Press releases about festival results or prospective travel, fundraising needs, or student achievements and awards are always appropriate.

    Opportunities abound for introducing younger students to music. Have a before or after school “instrument petting zoo” where prospective musicians can touch and try out various instruments or learn a simple song. Your current students can be the “zookeepers” and demonstrate instruments or answer questions. Give your current students some talking points so they can exude the energy and excitement that comes from being part of an ensemble.

    Plan a trip. Music students traditionally travel, both close to home and far away. Nothing sells your program like taking the show on the road. The community can join in with a farewell dinner or a welcome home party. At Forum Festivals, we assist music groups to plan the best trip for their budget, their skills, and their interests. And we witness the results year after year when returning groups arrive with increased growth and musical proficiency.

    Make it fun! Smile and be welcoming! Choose a day a week where students can congregate in your classroom at lunch or other break times. One orchestra teacher had a “donut day” where her current students brought in a friend to meet her and check out the instruments. Both left with a donut in hand. *

    There’s a common thread here – positivity! Your attitude and effort will go a very long way to ensure that music is an equal opportunity elective in your school. Be a cheerleader for your music students! It’s worth the effort and your program will only benefit by the added admiration and respect.

    *Maria Stefanova Mar – http://www.musicteachingandparenting.com/four-tricks-to-recruit-even-more/

    An Easy Overnight Festival Trip Awaits…in San Diego 

    Did you know that Forum Music Festivals produces festival in the San Diego area?  San Diego offers sunshine, beaches, and fantastic sightseeing opportunities.  But another benefit to exploring America’s Finest City is how easy it is to navigate an overnight trip with your students.   

    Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight at SeaWorld San Diego

    A vibrant city filled with musical and cultural options, in San Diego you will find plenty to attract your students of any grade level.  Check out this sample student itinerary. 

    • Day 1 – 
    •  Travel Day.  Check in to 3-diamond hotel in San Diego, then visit Old Town State Park, the heart of historic San Diego and California’s first settlement.  You’ll find museums, shops, and excellent restaurants here.  Enjoy a Mexican dinner at Café Coyote. 
    • Day 2 –  
    • After a hot breakfast at the hotel, transfer to one of the many college campuses for a music clinic with a college instructor.  Include a possible campus tour and let your students imagine the promising next step in their educational careers. 
    • Transfer to Liberty Public Market in the Point Loma neighborhood for shopping among artisans and lunch.   
    • In the early evening, head to the marina to board a City Experience Dinner Cruise of the San Diego Bay. Cruise ends at 10 PM, then head back to the hotel for the evening. 
    • Day 3 –  
    • Hot breakfast at the hotel is served, then transfer to Forum Music Festivals, where you will receive expert adjudication and feedback on your performance.  Awards are held at the venue, then off you go to SeaWorld San Diego for a full day with amazing animals, educational adventures, rides, shows, and exhibits.  Top off the day with a group dinner at Buca di Beppo, the Corvette Diner, or one of the scrumptious restaurants in Little Italy. 
    • Day 4 –  
    • Following breakfast, head to the Embarcadero to board the USS Midway, the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century.  Boasting flight simulators, climb-in aircraft, self-guided audio tours and spectacular views of the downtown skyline, the USS Midway also offers performance opportunities on deck for your ensembles. Following your tour, grab some lunch or early dinner, board the bus, and head for home.   

    Other options?  They are limitless… 

    • The Museum of Making Music, in nearby Carlsbad, offers scheduled educational programs sponsored by NAMM.    
    • The San Diego Symphony in historic Copley Hall presents a range of concerts including traditional classical repertoire as well as a pop series featuring famous guest artists. 
    • Exposing your students to Broadway is easy in San Diego – theatres abound featuring musicals at the La Jolla Playhouse, the Old Globe in Balboa Park, and the Balboa and Civic Theatres.  

    San Diego offers all of this and so much more.  Let’s customize a festival package that features the interests and budget of your student group.   

    From beaches and bays to culture and cuisine, you’ll find it in San Diego.   

    Spooky, Strange, Eerie, and Mysterious Music

    It’s the middle of October and you know what that means.  Halloween is right around the corner.  Here’s some spooky music to impress your students and teach them about why music can be spooky! And maybe you’ll have some of these pieces in your repertoire that they can sight read or sight sing a few tunes.

    1.  Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky.  Adapted from a Russian folktale, the music paints the picture of a witches’ gathering on Bald Mountain on St. John’s Eve.  Used to effect in Disney’s Fantasia, the fiery percussion and eerie strings help create the frightful atmosphere of the piece.  Mussorgsky was only a teenager when he was inspired.  Check out the clip from Fantasia
    2. Funeral March of a Marionette by Charles Gounod tells the musical story of two marionettes who get into a duel.  When one dies, his friends carry him off, but stop for a brief drink and tell stories of their lost friend, thereby creating the fanciful nature of the piece.  Used famously in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, it also appears in Disney’s Fantasia.  Great opening for woodwinds!
    3.  In the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg.  Peer Gynt, a Norwegian adventurer and rascal, finds himself in the Hall of the Mountain King captured by trolls.  When he refuses to marry the king’s daughter and become a troll himself, he barely makes it out.  Great example of how tempo and dynamics create suspense in music.  Check out this version.
    4. Toccato and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Your students will definitely recognize this piece within its first few measures.  Composed in a minor key, it is recognizable in so many horror movies throughout generations.  Does the organ create a sense of foreboding? Musical scholars are still unsure whether it was originally written for the organ and some even question whether Bach wrote it at all due to its unusual dynamics which are distinctly un-Bach-like – unsolved musical mysteries.
    5. Jaws by John Williams.  Two notes and fear strikes!  Hypnotic and primitive, it is so closely aligned with sharks that just those two notes, at whatever dynamic, takes the listener to whatever lurks in the deep. 
    6. Verdi’s Requiem – “Dies Irae” – Day of Wrath.  Terrifying, powerful, and vigorous, your singers will definitely be moved by this recognizable work by Giuseppe Verdi.  When Verdi composed the piece, female singers were not allowed to perform in the Catholic Church, but Verdi always intended to include them.  Hear this version by the Metropolitan Opera.
    7. Double Trouble by John Williams.  The music of Harry Potter is timeless and magical.  Double Trouble is performed at Hogwart’s Opening Feast in The Prisoner of Azkaban.  Lyrics taken from Shakespeare’s MacBeth and the line, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” from a Ray Bradbury fantasy novel of the same name.

    Your students will probably share some of their suggested music for the holidays.  Great to have a chance for fun in the classroom. 

    Keep Calm and Recruit Boys for Choir

    For over 20 years, Forum Music Festivals has welcomed a 90-voice boys’ choir to perform at festival.  Are they pledges to the Vienna Boys Choir?  Nope, they are from a public middle school where their teacher made singing a very cool thing to do.  At this school, singing in the Boys’ Choir is a tradition.  And by the reception they get at festivals, school assemblies, and community events, the boys continue to enrich the legacy.  Take it from me, when a boys’ choir sings at festival, it is usually a showstopper!

    Choral directors are always in search of male singers for their choirs.  As you plan on recruiting boys for your middle school choral program, consider the following ideas.

    •  Develop an All-Boys Chorus.  In an all-boy group, boys concentrate on singing without feeling shy about singing in front of girls.  Single gender instruction also allows you more time to focus on the changing voices of male middle school singers.
    • Simply, invite them.  Use your existing boy singers to reach out to incoming sixth graders.  A video of your current boys’ choir entices both students and parents. A sincere invitation really appeals to the student who is looking for a place to belong. 
    • Enlist your current singers to perform for the school or sing for the daily announcements.  A brief performance at Back to School Night or Open House encourages parents to encourage their sons to give it a try.
    • Encourage your boys to enlist their friends to join.  Maybe an after-school visit to the choir room will show potential recruits that they can have a lot of fun singing with their peers.
    • Get to know the boys in your school.  Attend sporting events and enlist the help of coaches.  Have your choir perform the National Anthem at sporting events.  Being visible and showing how much fun it is to sing speaks louder than any recruitment poster could.
    • Be funny, reassuring, and create a “Safe Zone.”  Maybe an All are Welcome pitch – No Auditions.  I saw one choir at festival where each boy wore a shirt that said, “Real Men Sing!”
    • Enlist faculty members. I’ll bet there are some other teachers who would be willing to get together and sing at an assembly.  Even if they don’t sound fabulous, students will love it!

    Once you have them in choir, keep the momentum going.

    • Most boys enjoy competition.  Is there an in-class game that you can incorporate to make boys feel successful? 
      • Sing it Charades – put the name of a singer on a card, then have students act them out or sing a song of that singer.
      • Name that Tune.  Divide the choir into teams.  Play a tune without words and have them guess.  Keep score and the winning team gets a prize.
      • Rounds – Divide the choir into two teams.  Teach everyone the same round and have them compete for adjudication (maybe the principal?)  Winning teams get a prize.
      • Musical Pictionary.  Divide into teams.  Use a white board or paper.  The “artist” gets a word that describes musical notation, then draws a picture for his team to guess it.
      • Copy rhythms during warmup.  You sing or clap a rhythm, and they must follow.  Make it controlled silliness while incorporating a little rhythm lesson.
      • Start a reward chart and let the weekly winner conduct warm-ups.  You can reward for behavior, attendance, or whatever you wish to encourage.
    • Select songs that they can sing well and that appeal to them.  For example, the musical theatre genre has tons of literature that interests boys – “Newsies,” “Hamilton”, “Aladdin,” “Oliver,” “Lion King,” – the list is endless.  Keep in mind, though, that you are conducting the choir in front of you, and you must consider their actual range and changing voices.
    • Be good.  Middle School students want to be part of something that is excellent. Help them sound great! Work on matching pitch, no matter where they are in their changing voices.
    • Introduce varying cultures and languages in your music choices.
    • Teaching a boys’ choir is different from teaching a girls’ choir, particularly in middle school.   They may move more, so give them time to stand and shake off their restlessness.  Goofy behavior will crop up during class time.  Ignore it, laugh about it, or stop to explain why it’s inappropriate – your choice, but be prepared to deal with it. Use humor while encouraging proper conduct.
    • Introduce male role models that sing– take them to a college concert of doo-wop, collegiate a cappella, or vocal jazz.  If your high school ‘s choral program has strong male singers, invite them to your classroom for an exchange concert between the high school and middle school singers.

    It absolutely must be fun!!!   Include festivals and travel.  Let them show off a bit.  To quote the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.”  You are building musical memories to last a lifetime.

    We’d love to help.  Include Forum Music Festivals in your program and showcase your boys!  Adjudicators love supplying positive feedback and encouragement.  And they will get to hear and see other choirs perform (maybe even some boys’ choirs.) Contact us at 1-888-76-FORUM (763-6786) and let’s get started on the journey together!

    Clarifying Knott’s Chaperone Policy

    August 2023

    Dear Forum Festival Friends,

    In light of recent events, Knott’s Berry Farm has amended their chaperone policy. For the general public, this means that there must be one chaperone for every four minors under the age of 17.   For our groups, that ratio will be based on one chaperone for every ten students under the age of 17.

    If you are planning to perform at Forum Festivals followed by a visit to the park, please make note of the following information as you plan your spring program with us.

    1. Your group will be required to have 1 adult chaperone (21 years +) for every 10 students.
    2. Wristbands provided at the park will identify your students to Knott’s staff as part of a group under the supervision of chaperones based on the required one per ten ratio.
    3. Each group leader must submit a list of chaperone names and cell phone numbers to Forum in advance of your visit. Added details will be forwarded to you as we get closer to the festival season.
    4. Chaperones must remain in the park and be accessible by the provided mobile phone.

    Initial feedback about this new policy from Knott’s Berry Farm is very positive. Your group’s safety and security are most important to us. As this policy may evolve over the coming months, we will keep you updated on those revisions.

    Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

    Telephone: 1-888-76-FORUM (763-6786)

    Email: office@forummusicfestivals.com

    The Finish Line is Near!

    A Year-End Checklist for Music Teachers

    •  Reward administration and school staff with a BIG MUSICAL THANK-YOU presented by your students!  Invite them to the band or choir room (or MPR) for a mini concert with refreshments!
    • Reward parents and friends who have supported your program with a BIG MUSICAL THANK-YOU at the end of the year concert.
    • “Sign up for next year Give your students some solid reasons they should!  (Music trip, friendship, a place to belong, concerts, you will miss them, AND FUN!)
    • Clean and repair!  Do yourself a favor (or the colleague who follows you) & clean your classroom and repair your equipment! 
    • Inventory your supplies and equipment.  You’ll be glad you did when you start back again.  Toss what cannot be repaired and organize what can be kept.
    • Make time for some end-of-the-year merriment in the classroom!  After the final concert when the classroom days are winding down, have a fun day with Name That Tune, or Karaoke, Musical Charades, Music Trivia, or Drop the Needle.  Or show some musical movies to discuss – Mr. Holland’s Opus, Music of the Heart, The Sound of Music, School of Rock, Amadeus, the list goes on and on.
    • Offer a chance for students to solo or ensemble in front of the class.  You might be surprised to see who steps up to give it a go.  
    • Reflect on what worked and didn’t work this year!  It’s been a year of starts and stops.  Most music teachers are rebuilding their programs after a two-year unwanted hiatus of remote learning.  But you did it!  You’re finishing up and your students hung in there with you.  Now’s the time to review, then make plans for next year while everything is fresh in your memory. When you are ready to plan, we are ready to help. www.forummusicfestivals.com

    Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!  You made it through another school year.  Time to recharge and take care of yourself so you’ll be ready to start again with another roomful of fresh faces!

    8 Lesser Known (But Fabulous) So Cal Excursions

    Southern California is chock full of tucked away gems that will intrigue students and adults alike– performance groups, STEAM groups, and history groups.  Let Forum Music Festivals find clever and unique options to add to your festival trip.

    •  Bowers Museum – This little museum boasts amazing exhibitions, an opportunity to perform, and an easy centralized location.  Student-friendly pricing for school tours is available.  School tours include interactive, docent guided tours.  Current and past exhibitions include “The Crown Jewels of the Walt Disney Archives,” Ancient Arts of China,” “Beethoven: The Late Great,” and many more exhibits from a range of topics.

    • Presidential Libraries – Southern California boasts two Presidential Libraries – the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda and the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.  Traveling exhibitions feature historical topics of interest in the modern day. A Presidential Library visit can be squeezed into a tour & travel weekend.  Permanent exhibits at the Reagan Library range from stepping aboard Air Force One or walking through a replica of the Oval Office.  The Nixon Library’s galleries feature topical subjects such as a Marine One presidential helicopter, and oral history recordings of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. 

    • Soka University Performing Arts Center – Newly built in 2009, the beautiful 1,000 seat Soka Performing Arts Center features superb acoustics and a black box theatre. Events are scheduled as varied as the Pacific Symphony, Joshua Bell & Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, as well as many solo world-class artists.  The university is close to many group-friendly dining options.
    • Griffith Observatory – Dating back to 1935, the historic Griffith Observatory is located 1,134 feet above sea level in Los Angeles.   Among exhibits and shows to enthrall visitors are the Foucault pendulum, the Zeiss refracting telescope, and fascinating planetarium shows.  The views of Los Angeles are spectacular. The grounds and building are not to be missed.

    • The Grammy Museum – The Grammy Museum, in Downtown L.A., connects the dots between music’s history and the heritage of recorded music.  School tours can include workshops and classes.  Exhibits have included “Take Me Out to the Ball Game:  Popular Music and the National Pastime,” “This is Nat King Cole,” and “Face the Museum” merging photography and music to showcase legendary musicians.  Inhabiting 4 floors of exhibits, the museum includes artifacts, films, and interactive experiences.

    • Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is the 4th most-visited aquarium in the nation.  With more than 100 exhibits, the Aquarium displays about 12,000 animals representing the Pacific Ocean.  All ages may enjoy educational programs. The Aquarium’s animal encounters range from sharks & rays to Penguins to seals & sea lions & the beloved otters. 

    • Warner Bros Studio Tour offers tour options that include the Friends Fountain, an Interactive Sound Stage, set tours of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Friends”, and 100 years of storytelling. The Sony Studios Tour takes your group through soundstages that include “The Wizard of Oz,” “Men in Black”, or game shows such as “Jeopardy.” Dining options can be added.

    • Don’t forget the fabulous beaches! Your students would love an excursion to the beach.  Huntington Beach (Surf City USA) has volleyball courts, basketball courts, fire-rings for bonfires, and a mufti-use trail.  Picnic areas may be reserved.  Information about services and parking can be found here.

    Southern California is home to thrilling theme parks, but discovering new options adds to a wonderful student trip in a very unique way. Forum Music Festivals is ready to start the ball rolling. Call us at 1-888-76-FORUM.

    Last Minute Planning in a Pandemic Year

    As we slowly creep into a new normal, music educators still seek performance options for young musicians.    

    Never fear!  There’s still time!

    Give us a call – With our experience and ideas, you can plan an outstanding experience that includes all the essentials – learning, fun, and performance!  After all, we’ve been developing terrific resources for 27 years.  A great festival trip to your choice destination is just a phone call away.

    How about five tips to get you started?

    1.  What will your school administration allow? It’s an ever-evolving set of guidelines but by doing a little homework up front you’ll increase the likelihood of making a festival trip happen.  Start with this first step.
    2.  Be flexible.  You couldn’t start planning early.  So, give us a range of dates that will work in your schedule.  Friday festival dates fill up quickly, however we offer many Saturday morning options.  Have an open mind and let’s get started!
    3. Explore alternate activities.  Maybe this is the year to explore different activities because of social distancing. 
      For instance, most theme parks include outdoor rides, shows, and dining. Miniature golfing, going to a sporting event, or head to the beach for a group picnic. Enjoying a group meal outdoors might be just the thing to develop teamwork in your group.   Let’s team up to find the right activity for your group given the world in which we now inhabit.
    4. Don’t delay decision making.  Because time is not on your side, be prepared to make quick decisions so you don’t lose out. Making speedy decisions may not be in your comfort zone but collecting everyone’s opinions at this date may impede the possibility of making a festival trip happen.
    5. Explore safety protocols and concerns.  This may be the number one aspect that makes a trip sound more comfortable to administration and parents.  We can help you with your specific concerns.

    Best way to stay up on the news?  Sign up for our e-newsletter or include us in your Facebook posts.

    You might be getting a late start, but you can still WOW your students with a fantastic and rewarding trip this year.  We’re only an email or phone call away and invite you contact us to get started. 



    Making Practice Fun!

    Learning any new skill is a challenge. Doing it in front of your friends and classmates is extra-challenging. The school music teacher has the work cut out for them.

    Experienced music teachers know the frustration of unpracticed students in their ensembles. Encouraging at-home practice can be problematic since the teacher is unfamiliar with the student’s home support, other obligations (academics, chores, jobs), and their physical set up.

    When I was a young piano student, my wonderful mother nagged me to practice. The day before my weekly lesson, though, filled me with dread as I was sure I hadn’t practiced enough to suit my teacher. I was learning to play the piano – what I wasn’t learning was how to practice for improvement.

    When my own daughter started the flute with her band, she had a delightful teacher who approached practice differently from my own childhood experience. Key word here … FOCUS. Her teacher concentrated on improving specialized qualities of playing – intonation for a while. Then rhythm. On and on. But even more, she shared specific ideas for improvement. And she recognized that the whole picture had to include fun.

    From these experiences and from adjudicator feedback, I share a couple of tips to motivate your students to practice:

    Explain the difference between practice and rehearsal.

    When you play a sport, you go to practice, then to the game and that’s it. Music study requires a bit more than just playing with the ensemble. Preparing for the rehearsal can be difficult for young musicians to grasp.


    Did each student select their own instrument? Is he/she comfortable with sticking with that choice? Since most directors face gaps in instrumentation, how about a “viola” day or “tuba” day where each student tries out an instrument other than his or her own? If the student realizes that he/she prefers a different instrument, it may improve the practice.

    Talk it up.

    Talk about practice in class every day. Assume that each student is practicing at home. (Yes, we realize this isn’t the case.)  Without pressure, ask students where and when they practice and if they will share practice tips to their fellow student musicians. Make it sound like everyone is doing it.

    Sidestep frustration.

    Music students are easily discouraged with their results. Be encouraging, but honest. It takes a long time to learn an instrument, just like math builds on earlier concepts and baseball starts with T-ball. Sure, gifted, and talented student musicians exist, but doesn’t everyone need to feel that they are making progress?

    Set personal practice goals.

    Ask students to write down a realistic musical goal for the week. For example, if a difficult passage is tripping up the student suggest they practice it ten times slowly in a row without making a mistake. If they make a mistake, start over. Most of us love playing or singing the parts that we do well while avoiding the tough parts. (I speak this from experience.)  Key word here is REALISTIC. A fine line exists between achieving realistic outcomes and making practice too discouraging to even begin.

    Set up a custom practice schedule.

    In class, have students write down a schedule that suits their life and timelines. Ideas to share…

    • Schedule a “practice-free” day every week. Choose your own practice-free day. Or set the practice-free day around other obligations. This offers a needed break AND promotes time management skills.
    • Break up the practice time. Instead of a 30-minute session (or more), break the time into smaller increments. Using a timer is simple and helpful.
    • Change the practice routine. Is right after school the best time? Or does getting up 15 minutes earlier to practice work better? How about after dinner when Mom and Dad can listen? So individual, but the keyword here is CONTROL. And the student has it.

    Change the practice location.

    Suggest they take their instrument to the bathroom, to the dining room, outside, or to the park. Changing things up often garners a new perspective on things.

    Give students real-life tips for practice.

    Suggestions could include…

    • Singing the part to themselves.
    • Playing a couple of measures, then once that unit is mastered, add a measure.
    • Pencil in trouble spots in class to concentrate on them at home.
    • Playing with a friend. Who in your ensemble who could practice with you? Join in on a joint practice session. Sociability during practice – what fun!
    • Offering “bonus” sheet music as a reward for learning ensemble music. It develops interest and rewards good practice.

    A friendly competition as a great musical motivator.

    • 30-day Practice Tournament – Who can log the most practice in a 30-day period? (Yes, based on the honor system and the obvious results.)
    • Create a “streak” contest – who practiced the most days in a row?
    • Use text messages or classroom signs to reward musical accomplishments. (“Shout out to the clarinets for a great sectional!”) OR (“Hats off to Cindy who practiced 7 days in a row”)
    • Beat the teacher. Who can practice more than the teacher? The winning student teaches the class for a day.
    • Plan a celebration when all students have learned a piece of music.
    • Post a chart of Practice Champs. (Again, honor system and results)

    Include performance opportunities.

    Practicing without performing is monotonous. Plan performances throughout the school year. At Forum Festivals, we see the results from student engagement. Not every ensemble is world class, but every student is excited to show their stuff and wants to hear other groups. Using performance as a motivator gives students a reason to practice.

    As the old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” (or fill in the venue). Practice, practice, practice!

    Be positive about practice and have FUN making music.

    You are teaching far more than music by developing life skills through music:  cooperation, civility, teamwork, and goal setting! At Forum Music Festivals, we celebrate music educators and music students at all levels and abilities! Take pride in your students’ accomplishments this year – remote learning hasn’t been easy for anyone, and your students hung in there!

    We can’t wait to see you at a festival!

    Becky Norman – Forum Music Festivals

    Best Lines from 27 Years of Festivals

    For 27 years, Forum Music Festivals has hosted thousands of student music ensembles and directors.  Over the years, students, judges, and directors have shared some insightful comments at festivals.  We’ve chuckled from some and learned from them all!  As we launch our 27th year, we extend our appreciation and gratitude to the music students and directors that have joined us over the years. Here’s the best lines we’ve heard from 27 years of producing festivals.

    Best Lines from Students:

    •  “Is this like a college theatre or something?  I could see myself here. “
    • “This festival is actually festive!
    • “I can’t wait to take our award back to school!”
    • “Do you happen to have an extra reed laying around?”  (Also, a spare guitar string.)
    • “I loved the excitement of the awards ceremony. I jumped out of my seat when our school was called.”
    • “We get to miss school, play music, and go to Disneyland? Best! Day! Ever!”

    Best Lines from Adjudicators:

    • Choose music that plays to your students’ strengths.”  (Judges’ most frequent advice)
    • “Step away from the mouthpiece.”  (Judge advising saxophone players)
    • “Beautify the tone.”
    • “Look like the music! Where the body goes, the mind goes, and where the mind goes, the voice follows.”
    • “Posture is everything! “
    • “Conduct the band that is in front of you – not the one in your fantasy.”
    • Choral music can change the world!”

    Best Lines from Directors:

    • “Thank you for providing such a light in a child’s life that is riddled with obstacles.”
    • “I’ll pray harder to the bus gods next year and maybe we’ll make it on time. See you then!”
    • “The entire clarinet section forgot their mouthpieces.  Can you help?”  (We did.)
    • “I really appreciate the extra mile Forum goes to support public schools’ music programs.”
    • “Thanks to everyone at Forum for making a special day for our kids and a terrific music celebration.”
    • “The venue is outstanding. If art has value, why do our kids have to perform in a lunchroom – EVER?”
    • “Your letter arrived at the perfect time, just as parents and students had formed a group to fight for our music program!!! We are now able to keep both our instrumental and choral program going!”

    Taking registrations for the 2022 spring season! We’re performing and learning. You and your student musicians are invited to join us.

    Thrilling Adventures…Close to Home

    Did you know that awesome excursions are right here in your own backyard?  Or at least within a days’ travel?  Shorter trips still offer the features and feeling of a retreat, while keeping students closer to home.  Forum Music Festivals can be combined with a variety of appealing close to home travel for students.

    Theme parks have re-opened – always a big hit for students.  Take a look at the many options for student groups.  Extra cleaning precautions ensure the safety of their guests, making theme parks among the safest places for student groups.

    • Musical performance opportunities and workshops.  Many parks offer space to perform or private workshops.
    • Outdoor attractions and activities. Which parks have plenty of outdoor rides versus indoor activities?  We can help with suggestions.
    • Great value for student groups.  Our theme park packages are an economical way to deliver adjudication, fun, and team spirit within your group.
    • Proactive about health and cleanliness  
      • Hand sanitation stations
      • Routine cleaning and sanitizing restrooms
      • Contactless payments in shops and dining locations.
      • Wiping down handrails and rides in an enhanced cleaning schedule.
    • Pre-ordered food options minimize standing in extra lines.  Theme Park meal vouchers are an easy way to feed the group.
    • Attendance monitoring.  Reservations may be required in some parks.   At Forum Festivals, when you purchase our festival package, your reservation is handled.
    • Virtual queues that emphasize social distancing or reducing wait times are becoming popular. 

    Outdoor Experiences are also wonderful alternatives for student group outings.  Combine a Forum Festival with one of the following:

    Theatre and Symphony performances go hand-in-hand with music education.  In California, this means that theatregoers must prove vaccination status.

    • Most theatres in California are now requiring proof of vaccination or possible proof of a negative COVID test, making indoor seating safer.
    • Masking is required in theatres.
    • Group seating, when possible, helps with social distancing inside the theatre.   

    Creative alternatives for fun student festival outings could include:

    • Beach Day with Boxed Lunch – we can arrange box lunches to make it easy.
    • Step-on Guides on your bus will take your students on a guided tour of a new destination.  You select when the group can hop off the bus to explore a specific site.
    • Let’s book a Scavenger Hunt in a new city.  This is a great team-building activity.  For more details, contact us.
    • If a hotel stay is in your plans, schedule a trivia night.  Contact us for hotel rental space to host your own game night.
    • Let us book a night of bowling. Fun and competition while your students interact with each other.

    As we inch towards a “new normal,” directors are re-building music programs, opening new doors for students, and deciding how music travel works in a post-quarantine world.  When your group is ready, we’re ready to help with support and assistance.  Close-to-home travel is a definite step in the direction of a well-rounded music education.  Let Forum Music Festivals help you get started.

    Disney Imagination Campus Update

    Dear Forum Friends,

    Applications are now open for Disney Imagination Campus programs. This is the newly re-named program (formerly Disney Performing Arts) for performances in the park and performing arts workshops. They are also offer education workshops as well.

    To apply, visit https://planears.disney.com to submit an application. To combine a workshop or performance in the park with a Forum Music Festival, you must submit your festival registration through Forum AND an application for the Disney Imagination Campus portion of your trip.

    Tickets and “experience fees” must be purchased through Forum Music Festivals. For more details, contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.

    Thank you. We’re so excited to welcome you and your students back for a great year of music!

    COVID-19 Festival Policy

    Updated 12/28/21

    All destinations and suppliers have their own rules related to COVID-19. For example, you may be required to quarantine upon arrival in some locations. Some locations may require masks or social distancing, or they may require you to provide proof of vaccination or negative testing. While Forum Educational Travel will try to assist you in understanding these requirements, you are responsible for understanding these requirements and must not rely on any representations made by Forum Educational Travel. Should you be denied entry to any destination or attraction, Forum Educational Travel will not be responsible for any such denial, or any cost associated therewith.

    All medical costs associated with a COVID-19 infection during the trip are the responsibility of each individual traveler.

    Original Post

    As we plan our Forum Festivals Spring 2022 season, we have developed guidelines for participants regarding our safety plans regarding COVID 19.

    • We will follow both CDC and State of California guidelines governing requirements surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic.
    • Each festival venue may establish requirements relating to events and gatherings.  We will update our participants of those changes, accordingly.
    • Because circumstances change very rapidly, we will notify directors about any policy changes closer to each festival date.
    • Changes to our normal festival format may occur. As we get closer to the actual festival dates, we will have a better insight of changes at the festival.
    • For overnight travelers, our hotel partners are dedicated to the highest protocols. These protocols may include increased frequency of cleaning in public spaces, disinfecting surfaces in guest rooms, etc.  Charter bus companies have also implemented advanced sanitation protocols which include enhanced air filtration, hand sanitizers, and daily disinfection.
    • Revised itineraries may be necessary as sites and attractions update rules for social distancing, masks, etc.  We will continue to monitor how these updates may affect your trip.
    • The safety of our participants and staff members remains our primary concern.  If you have any questions about our COVID 19 Festival Policy, please don’t hesitate to email us directly.

    We are working remotely, so email is still the quickest way to reach us. Our Facebook page and our e-newsletter provide timely updates, so we encourage you to sign up for those. As we navigate through extraordinary times, we appreciate your patience and support. As we await young musicians’ return to a Forum Festival, we envision that each festival will be great day of music! That’s our goal and our focus.

    San Diego Dates Added to 2022 Season

    So much to do. So much to see.

    Forum Festivals has added San Diego dates to our 2022 festival schedule. Join us in San Diego for a morning festival with the remainder of the day or weekend to enjoy all the sights!

    Fabulous weather aside, San Diego offers historic, cultural, and fun things to do! Check out the following options as you consider your festival trip to San Diego.

    San Diego is a perfect first overnight for So Cal festival participants because it’s easy to get there and easy to enjoy.

    Festival dates are posted on our website. Choose all-in-one-day packages or contact us for an overnight itinerary chock full of fun & education. They don’t call it the City in Motion for nothing! Join us this spring!

    Growing Your Program

    Rebuilding & Recruiting in School Music Programs

    It’s time to consider the next steps to grow your program.  The world of remote learning was tough on everyone, but particularly on music teachers.  Student music programs that, by their very nature, are designed to teach a performance art had to test the boundaries of creativity and resourcefulness. As a student music festival company, we want to be part of the solution.

    As we all re-start, here are some tips for building or re-building a school music program.

    • Don’t be afraid to start small.  Make it matter to the students and watch it grow.
    • Be visible to the students who will feed into your program. 
      • Visit your feeder school to introduce yourself to those students. 
      • Take your musicians to perform for the younger students.
    • Invite the younger students to join you at the high school. Your students can teach a pep song to play at football games.  Assume that they are part of your program, so they will assume that too.
    • Plan some experiences just for the upper-level students.
      • (A Forum Festival trip?)  The younger students will have something to work towards as they build their skills.
    • Guest conduct at your feeder school
      • Remember an encouraging word!
    • Swap places with the feeder school director for a day (if admin agrees)
    • Gather statistics for school counselors about the advantages for music kids.
      • Higher GPA overall for music students
      • Successful alumni who performed in the band/orchestra/choir program
      • Quality colleges that pursue students from your music program
      • Access and visibility to college-level professors at music festivals
      • Better attendance and lower drop-out rates among music students
    • Open the band or choir room doors before school, at lunch, and after school.
      • This is the place for your students. Make it their home away from home – a safe haven and their “special place.”  New students & friends welcome!
    • Enlist the support of the whole community
      • Enlist the local newspaper as your group performs at a student music festival or other events.
      • Perform at local events, store openings, concert halls.
      • Invite community leaders to your concerts. (A boost for fundraising, too.)
    • Music students must perform
      • The word is out – the band or choir is going somewhere!  Building your program will be the result!
    • More recruitment tips are available through the following links:

    At Forum Festivals, we welcome music students from throughout the country.  These music programs are moving and growing and making things happen.  It is time for all of that to happen again. Contact us for details.

    You must promote your music program and students.  It may well be that no one else will.

    Forum Festivals & Disney Imagination Campus!

    Graphic for Disney Imagination Campus

    At Forum Music Festivals, we’re delighted to highlight Disney Imagination Campus. Our friends at Disney have re-imagined their iconic workshops and performance opportunities. These beloved Disney programs mesh perfectly with your Forum Festivals weekend – fun, learning, and enthusiasm!

    The popular vocal & instrumental Soundtrack Session workshops & performances are back and even better! Young dancers or musical theatre students may choose Dance Disney and Disney Broadway Magic workshops. Or showcase your Marching Band with the enduring tradition of a march down Main Street.

    New to Disney’s impressive workshops are…

    Designed for students of every ability and interest., creativity and imagination should be part of each student’s educational experience!

    Can we coordinate your Forum Music Festival with your Disney Imagination Campus event? Absolutely! Let’s partner to bring the excitement of a festival with the magic of Disney. We’re raring to go! Let’s get started with an eye for spring 2022.

    Look for pricing & applications to come in the next few weeks. Applications are accepted starting August 2, 2021. Programs commence in January 2022. Head over to www.disneycampus.com for more details. Or better yet, sign up for our e-newsletter and Facebook page here so you don’t miss a thing. Contact us here for an “At-a-Glance flyer” for your administration or booster clubs, Request DisneyCampusFlyer in the comments.

    Linking a festival with an Imagination Campus package means that Forum Festivals coordinates your schedule. Request a quote with lodging, festival, workshops, and more! . Or give us a call at 1-888-76-FORUM. We’d love to hear from you.

    Imagination. Learning. Inspiration. – the best educational experience for your students!

    Traveling Green

    10 Ideas for Sustainable Student Travel

    As we wait for a green light to student travel, let’s consider the impact our travel has on our students, the destination, and the planet. Our teens live in a world where reducing their footprint on our planet is incredibly critical.    To promote sustainable travel, meet your students’ ideas with your own tips.  Together, you can incorporate these ideas into the fun of planning your next trip.

    Go lightly! 

    Ask students to assemble a packing list that includes only the essentials.  By packing light, you avoid burning resources with heavy baggage.

    Explore public transportation

    Feel adventurous?  If your group is small enough, you can do it!  Trust that your entire group can fit on one bus, subway, or train, but chat up a Plan B if your group gets split.  Until the next bus or subway comes along, a couple of chaperones can stay with students. Then you can all meet up at the next stop.  Is public transpo the answer for the entire trip? Maybe not, but in many destinations, it’s an easier way to get around.

    Walk On!

    If your hotel is near your sites, walking saves money, is healthy, and makes the planet greener.  Before you go, decide whether your group can handle short walking trips. Talk to your travel planner about the proximity of sites to your hotel.


    That is, bring your own water bottles. Clearly, buying disposable beverage bottles is a problem for a green-loving group. Ponder other ways to reduce plastic use.

    • Bring reusable bags for shopping and laundry.
    • Sidestep one-use straws when eating out.
    • Avoid plastic utensils, if possible. 
    • Leave recyclable trash in the proper container. 

    Note: Plastic takes between 100 and 400 years to break down in a landfill. 

    RIP Hotel Toiletries

    Once considered a luxury, these cute little bottles often go half-used before being tossed and ultimately living in a landfillBring soap and shampoo in reusable bottles.  To avoid plastic waste, bring your own.  Many hotel brands are cutting these items to reduce their clutter footprint. 

    Tip:  If you must use the hotel toiletries, take the balance to finish off the shampoo and to re-use the container for your next trip.

    Power Down

    Turn off lights, TV, and electronics to conserve energy.  Close the drapes to keep out the heat or insulate from the cold.

    Go paperless. 

    Technology, (with which your students are quite familiar), is an obvious starting place.  Encourage electronic notetaking.  When corresponding with parents, use email or text message – far more effective than the bottom of the backpack notice. 

    Re-use towels and bedding! 

    Most hotels encourage this – hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel door or use the folded sign the hotel provides.  For just a few nights, this is a no-brainer and minimizes water and energy used to launder towels and sheets. Easy, but key way to promote sustainable travel.

    Enlist your travel planner! 

    At Forum Festivals, we can suggest many green travel ideas.  We’re happy to inquire about the hotel’s recycling policies.  We can book local eateries that are walkable from the hotel.  As we design your itinerary, we’ll explore transportation options that can save you money AND save the planet.  

    Enjoy the green journey! 

    Students will likely be one step ahead of you, but when you incorporate sustainable travel in your planning as a challenge as well as a fun, educational experience, it will add to the journey.  We’d love to help!

    Bon voyages!

    Just a Note About Appreciation

    Well, 2020 is over and there’s probably no one on Planet Earth that wants to re-visit that year.  As we dust off those cobwebs, I can’t help but start 2021 with a spark of hope and a bucketful of admiration.

    Although we missed you in 2020, there’s no doubt that music teachers have really stepped up to the plate to show grace, flexibility, and creativity for their students.  Pretty sure that none of you went to college or conservatory to learn how to teach via Zoom or to teach a socially distant performance group.  As a business that supports music education, we admire all of you out there who are making music happen in your students’ homes and schools.  You are heroes!

    Essential workers – how familiar that term is to us now.  Having spent months in quarantine depending on those who make our society plug along, let’s give a round of applause to those who fall under that huge umbrella of work deemed essential.  Of course, this includes health care, but it also includes those in retail grocery chains, agriculture, childcare, plumbers, mechanics, transportation, first responders, and the list goes on and on.  Can we ever say thank you enough to those who keep us going? 

    Finally, we must admit that we all have a much more expanded appreciation for time – time by ourselves, time with those we love, and time spent discovering new talents and re-visiting old interests.  For music teachers (and those of us in that world), that can also mean the simple pleasure of practicing and enjoying music.  We look forward to the time when we can welcome you and your wonderful students back to a Forum Festival to enjoy, support, and encourage young musicians.

    So, What’s Happening with Forum Festivals?

    2021 is finally here and it is only natural that questions arise about what is going on with Forum Music Festivals.

    We are here and we will be ready to go when you are.  However, let’s be realistic about the possibility that 2021 might not look like the Forum Festivals of previous years. Right now, California is in a dark place with ever-rising COVID 19 infections and deaths.  As of this date, we are less than 60 days from what would normally be the first festival of our 26th festival season.  Truthfully, that’s probably not going to happen.  But we are holding out hope that we will be able to welcome groups late May or June.  We simply must wait and see.

    Meanwhile, a couple of things for you to know for the future…

    • Safety is our main concern for teachers, students as well as our staff.  We are taking steps to create a safe and healthy situation for groups to perform, once we’re all back together.
    • Money is going to be tight, so we will encourage groups to enjoy Forum Festivals on a local level with budget-friendly, yet fun alternatives for students.
    • Festivals may look a little different. We’ll follow CDC and State guidelines to keep gathering to a minimum, so we’ll pay attention when scheduling awards ceremonies.
    • Forum Music Festivals has always offered a “comments only” choice as well as a rated festival.  We understand that your ensembles may not had much classroom or rehearsal time this past year, so this may be a good option for your students.  Recruitment and retention, though, is also important. The opportunity to perform for adjudication and enjoy some camaraderie is a huge part of that.

    Teachers and students want to travel when districts give them the green light.  We are hearing that from you, and we will be here when that day happens.  Our 2022 festival dates will be posted on our website very soon.  Please keep in touch (office@forummusicfestivals.com) and know that we are wishing the very best to you and your students as we all begin the journey of moving forward.

    Great News from A Friend!

    A familiar face (and voice) from Forum Music Festivals shares some very exciting news, particularly for students of Big Band Drumming! Matt Johnson, longtime announcer at Forum, has published a new book. Check out details below – you’ll want to have this important resource in your educational tool box!


    Drummer and music educator Matt Johnson announces the release of his new instructional play-along book for drummers, Big Band Loops Volume 1, containing 13 fully-orchestrated big band play-along tracks by renown composer and arranger Tom Kubis and over 30 chart-specific practice loops with performance insights designed by Johnson for drummers with novice to advanced jazz drumming experience.

    Big Band Loops Volume 1 will help any drummer expand their ‘fill’ and ‘setup’ vocabulary while they simultaneously practice solid timekeeping with the aid of recorded looped big band figures and full-song play-along tracks,” says Johnson, an accomplished studio drummer and the Instructor of Drum Set Studies at Fullerton College since 1993. “The book also provides drummers with the thrill of playing in a big band outside of the classroom or live performance setting, which makes it a very timely and effective teaching solution during this unprecedented era of remote learning.”

    The downloadable eBook – available at www.drummermattjohnson.com/loops –  includes full drum set charts, notated loop examples, instructional text and high-quality sound files for every featured practice loop and song, providing a totally immersive play-along experience.

    Johnson tapped his longtime friend Tom Kubis to provide the music for this fun and practical instructional play-along book. Since the 1970s, Kubis’ arrangements have been a popular staple in the music libraries of the top high school, college and university jazz programs, as well as professional big bands around the world, and have been featured on hundreds of CDs.

    Adapting the Kubis library for a play-along experience felt natural to Johnson, the original drummer in the Tom Kubis Big Band. “Tom’s music is so fun to play and his charts are so well prepared that I have been using them for years when teaching my college and private students the fundamentals of big band drumming.” This book puts into writing those time-tested concepts and techniques for learning the traditional responsibilities of a big band drummer while reinforcing all-around fundamentally-sound drumming skills. 

    Beyond his expertise in the big band arena, Johnson is versed in all forms of jazz, pop and world drumming styles. A founding member of the Tony Guerrero Quintet, they currently tours with Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actress/comedienne Jane Lynch. He is an artist/clinician for Mapex Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Aquarian Drumheads, Roland US and Vic Firth Drumsticks. 

    Big Band Loops Volume 1 by Matt Johnson, with music by Tom Kubis, is available as an eBook download for $35 at www.drummermattjohnson.com/loops

    We have moved!

    Times are rapidly changing, but we want you to know that we are still here for you! Our operations have moved from our “old” office to new remote digs! Phone number is the same, email is the same, faces are the same, but with renewed inspiration! If you need to mail anything to us, please use our PO Box.

    · Mailing address: PO Box 3662, Fullerton, CA. 92834

    Thank you to those who have completed our recent survey about the plans for your music programs. If you haven’t completed that yet, there’s still time! Click here to access the survey. This information will help us as we plan for 2021 and beyond!

    If we haven’t thanked you enough, we’re at it again! We extend our heartfelt thanks to all of you for your patience and good wishes during this very stressful and unfamiliar time. We count many of you as time-honored friends as well as partners in music education. Take care and we’ll see you again soon!

    · Phone numbers: 1-888-76-FORUM (toll free)
    ·Email: office@forummusicfestivals.com or info@forumtravel.org (Becky)
    · Michelle@forummusicfestivals.com or Michelle@forumtravel.org

    Music During Covid-19

    During times of duress and difficulty, people all across the world have always turned to music for calm and support.   Current times are no different. Music’s transformational power to convey emotion and reach out to others is felt everywhere. Though students are learning in a new way and teachers are learning new ways to teach, the feelings and impact of music-making remains the same. 

    Musicians at all levels are communicating to the global community to touch those who are hungry to hear. Hospital staff singing to uplift patients or Italian citizens singing from their balconies to encourage their neighbors – we’ve all seen them.    Professional musicians such as Itzhak Perlman (one of my favorites- always with a story), Steve Martin (Banjo Balm), and YoYo Ma’s serenade for healthcare workers (google on classicfm.com)  are just a few of the many musicians who have mobilized in response to the pandemic.  The Pacific Symphony provides a Quarantine Clip on their website with new postings each day. The San Francisco Symphony offers Concert Highlights on their website (sfsymphony.org)   Choirs are using Zoom to join in digital concerts.

    Although we are not together this season, resources are available on our website or Facebook page for you to provide to students. The countless online opportunities to see and appreciate musicians who wish to offer their gifts connects us and gives us hope.

    Thank you for your many kind emails and good wishes for our staff and the business. Please know that we are here to answer any questions you may have. We are already accepting registrations for spring 2021. Our very best wishes to you, your students, and your community as we move forward to a day when we can enjoy music together again.

    COVID-19 Coronavirus Update

    Updated December 28, 2021

    All destinations and suppliers have their own rules related to COVID-19. For example, you may be required to quarantine upon arrival in some locations. Some locations may require masks or social distancing, or they may require you to provide proof of vaccination or negative testing. While Forum Educational Travel will try to assist you in understanding these requirements, you are responsible for understanding these requirements and must not rely on any representations made by Forum Educational Travel. Should you be denied entry to any destination or attraction, Forum Educational Travel will not be responsible for any such denial, or any cost associated therewith.

    All medical costs associated with a COVID-19 infection during the trip are the responsibility of each individual traveler.

    Updated August 15, 2020

    It’s mid-August. Ordinarily, we would be circulating our annual brochure, generating our pricing, and looking forward to speaking with you who are anxiously planning festivals and trips. But these are unusual times, as we all know.

    We understand that music educators are working through their own teaching schedules and, in many cases, distance learning conditions. We’ve shared some ideas and arts opportunities on our social media platforms in hopes of being helpful to students and educators. A survey will be emailed next week so we may plan some best next steps for 2021 festivals. When you receive that survey, we would be grateful if you would take a few minutes to let us know what is going on in your program.

    Above all, we want you to know that we are still here – strong, steady, and ready to start planning with you when the COVID-19 situation allows. We are monitoring community and school closures as well as the CDC guidelines, to help us define how we will safely and effectively move forward with our festivals.

    Refunds from the 2020 season were processed as promptly as possible. If any questions still remain about 2020 refunds, please contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.

    As a company that supports school music programs, there is no question that this health crisis has impacted Forum as well as our many business partners. But be assured that when students are ready to travel and perform, we will be ready to welcome them with open arms and with our longstanding commitment to music education.

    For now, we encourage you to keep safe and healthy.

    o Observe instructions released by local health officials.

    o Practice social distancing and wear a mask when in public.

    o Minimize any chance of contracting respiratory infections.

    o Do not touch your face without washing your hands.

    o Avoid contact with persons who are already ill.

    o Limit touching public surfaces, where possible.

    o Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

    o Carry hand sanitizer (60-95% alcohol) for conditions where hand
    washing isn’t possible.

    Take care and we will see you soon!

    Your Friends at Forum Music Festivals and Forum Educational Travel

    Updated July 10, 2020

    Our registration for the 2021 Festival Season is NOW OPEN. Although we know there is still much uncertainty for the future, we hope to have a great festival season and get to see many of the faces we missed in 2020. We will be introducing new safety and sanitation policies and will share them once available. We are closely monitoring this ever-changing situation and making our decisions with the health and well-being of our clients at the forefront. Our partners are also hard at work to develop new protocols and ensure the safety of their guests, and we will be sure to share any and all information for trips you may be planning. In the meantime, stay tuned and we’ll see you soon!

    Updated April 22, 2020

    As we’ve said goodbye to our 2020 festival season (with barely a chance to say hello), we want to give you an update on what we’re doing and where we go from here.

    Like many of you, we are monitoring the status of the Coronavirus and the guidelines from the State of California.  If you were planning on participating with us during the 2020 festival season, we are providing the following details.

    1.  All 2020 festivals are now cancelled.  Although we were hoping to re-schedule groups, it just isn’t possible during this spring season.  Above all, the health of our participants and our staff is what matters most.
    2. We have suspended our usual cancellation deadlines due to the pandemic.
    3. School refunds are nearly complete. We’d like to extend a shout out to our many valued partners (hotels, restaurant, bus companies, etc.) for assisting us to refund so many of our client’s funds.
    4. We continue to advocate for our groups with our corporate suppliers to expedite the remainder of funds paid on behalf of schools.  Wherever possible, we are offering partial refunds now so needed monies can be returned to the hands of students and their families.   Once the remainder of the refund comes back to us, we will refund the balance to the school.
    5. If you wish to have your 2020 funds carried over for a festival in 2021, please notify us.  We are accepting registrations now for the 2021 festival season – visit Festival Registrations.
    6. We are working remotely. The best way to reach us is by email –  office@forummusicfestivals.com.  You may leave a message at our office phone, but it may take longer to retrieve and answer those messages.
    7. Hotels, theme parks, charter bus companies, and restaurants are also under lockdown orders.  This may delay refunds and correspondence as they are facing the same situation as many of us.

    Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate through this difficult time.    We are here to answer any questions you may have.  Most importantly, we encourage you and your school community to adhere to local guidelines for best practices to stay safe and healthy. 

    Updated April 1, 2020

    In light of the new recommendations from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (read letter here), Forum has made the difficult choice to cancel the rest of our festival season.  We are as heartbroken as our many clients at this unfortunate situation but the health and safety of all our directors, students, families, and staff are at the forefront of our minds.

    We are working remotely from home at this time.  Please contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com for options for funds paid in toward your 2020 festival participation. 

    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your sincere and kind emails during this difficult time.  We consider you all as close as family and will miss seeing you and hearing your students this year.

    We excitedly look forward to our 2021 festival season!  Registrations are NOW OPEN so lock in your preferred date today.  Contact us for a no-obligation overnight quote for the lowest rates and best availability. We are hopeful that all public health concerns will be resolved long before our season will commence.

    Take care, be well, continue making music and we will see you all in 2021!

    Updated March 27, 2020

    Our team at Forum is working diligently to process refunds and address this fluid situation on a case-by-case basis.  At this point, we have not cancelled all of our May festivals.  We are waiting for further direction from the CDC and state of California.  If you are registered for a May festival, please contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com to give us an update on whether your district will be in session or will allow travel in May or June.

    Please note that registrations for 2021 open on April 1 and we anxiously look forward to welcoming each and every one of you back to Forum in the new year!  Reserve your spot today and request your custom overnight proposal now for the best availability.

    Updated March 20, 2020

    Due to the shelter in place orders from the California government, we are no longer actively in the office.  Our staff is monitoring email and phone calls.  Refunds will be processed once we can get back into the office. Please be patient as we work through this together.

    Updated March 17, 2020

    Forum Music Festivals would like to express a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all of our clients and partners who have been so patient and understanding during this unprecedented and uncertain time.

    We are currently holding to see if late May or early June festivals may be possible.  Based on current CDC guidelines, we do not feel comfortable planning any events until this situation calms down.  If you are interested in pursuing a later festival date, we ask that you reach out to us in early to mid-April to see what options may be available at that time.  We appreciate your understanding as we wait for a clearer picture of what is to come.

    Please note we have had to reduce our office hours due to the governor’s recent suggestions, so our team is working remotely and communicating as best we can to get refunds and changes processed.  We also must wait for our partner organizations (theme parks, hotels, restaurants, etc.) to process refunds before we can move forward.  We are doing everything we can to get these out in a timely manner while also considering the health and safety of our staff.  Thank you in advance for your patience!

    Take care and be well!

    Updated March 13, 2020

    As you may know, the COVID-19 coronavirus has forced the closures and cancellations of many venues and activities throughout the country. In accordance with the recommendations made by the state of California, we have decided to cancel our festivals through the end of March.  We are saddened to make this move but believe it is in the best interest of our music teachers and students.  We are also assessing our April dates and cancelling those as necessary.  If you have an existing registration with us, we will inform you directly if this impacts your trip.

    You have several options including:

    1. Reschedule at a later date – possibly May or June
    2. Request a refund
    3. Request the theme park tickets and we will refund the festival portion
    4. Roll-over all fees for a 2021 festival date.  Registrations will commence on April 1.

    Because of these extraordinary circumstances, we are processing many refunds on a case-by-case basis.  We thank you for your patience in getting this information out to you.  We have a high volume of calls at this time, so please email office@forummusicfestivals.com with any questions you may have.

    We look forward to working with all of you and your talented students later this year and beyond in 2021 and appreciate your understanding during these difficult times.

    Originally posted March 3, 2020

    At Forum Music Festivals, our goal is to provide an experience that is not only educational and fun, but also an experience that keeps students well-being at the forefront. 

    At this time, there are no restrictions on travel anywhere in the United States.  In addition, there’s no indication that travel plans within the United States should be altered for any public health reason.  The CDC and other health organizations have advised that the current health risk to the general public is considered low.  In addition, young people appear to be less susceptible to the Coronavirus.

    Specific healthy habits always benefits student travelers – wash hands frequently, cough into your elbow and sneeze into a tissue, and consult your health care provider before traveling when sick.  We also encourage group leaders to check official world and national health resources for the most accurate information.  These include the Centers for Disease Control  and the U.S. Travel Association. Educating ourselves with guidance from legitimate health organizations will allow us to make the best decisions for our student travelers. 

    Although this is a developing situation, we currently do not foresee a change in our cancellation policy

    Finessing the Performance Schedule & How It Works

    If you’ve been with us for a while, you probably understand our scheduling process.  However, if you are a “newbie” to Forum, you may need an explanation of how our scheduling works.

    Some of our competitors “sell” performance spots.  This works for early registrants if they absolutely must have a location and a time spot for their ensembles.   But the drawbacks to this method are tough to get around. 

    1. If you are unable to register early, you must take what you can get. 
    2. If you want an audience to see your performance and to allow your students the chance to see other ensembles, the schedule may not be set up for optimal audience participation. 
    3. If you have to pick & choose times, your jazz band may perform at 8 AM and your concert band can’t perform until noon, just based on the spots that have already been filled. 

    At Forum, we have a different method that’s seems to be working, now 25 years in.  We solicit director input regarding the group’s ETA, departure times, possible bus parameters that influence arrival time, plus a wish list for an ideal performance schedule.  We organize the schedule to group similar ensembles together, to allow for enough warm-up time between ensembles who share the same director or have cross-over students.  And we try our best to get your ensembles grouped on the schedule comfortably without a huge amount of wait time.   

    Help US Help YOU with 11 Important Scheduling Tips:

    1.  If your bus company has timing constraints, notify us when you schedule your bus.
    2. If students perform in multiple ensembles, mention this before the schedule is released.
    3. If you WANT to perform back-to-back, (maybe with an associate to handle warm-ups), let us know.  No guarantees, but we’ll do our best.
    4. If you must provide off-duty time to your bus driver, share that essential information so we can schedule your exit time accordingly.
    5. If you can perform super early, that helps us help you.  Not everyone can perform at 10 AM – what a cacophony that would be!
    6. Do you want your ensemble to have an audience?  Let us know! No guarantees again but scheduling close to an awards ceremony will more likely ensure an audience.
    7. Your students deserve a great awards ceremony.  If your schedule doesn’t permit attending the awards ceremony, let us know before the schedule is released.  We may adjust the schedule so students will benefit by the entire experience.
    8. If you have arranged your own activity, tell us about your plans so we can comfortably allow time for you to get there.
    9. Flexibility is key!  Remember, traffic and road closures influence the schedule. Communicating with us can result in a positive outcome to the festival performance, even if traffic congestion woes misplace the best laid plans.
    10. Dropping groups after the schedule release is a faux pas of festival decorum.  When you register your ensembles, a spot in the line-up is being held just for you.  If you cancel an ensemble late in the game, you have likely eliminated the possibility of another school being able to perform.
    11. Time your performance.  Playing past the scheduled time causes the festival to run late, affects the timing of other schools, and irritates the judges who are trying to stick to the timeline.

    Are you spotting a common thread here?  Notify usmention this – let us know – share information – and clue us in.  We enjoy chatting with our clients, so give us a call or shoot us an email.   If you have info that will affect your arrival, we’d love to know.  And, we want you and your ensembles to feel good about your performance so if scheduling is going to affect that, let’s talk. 

    Last Minute Planning Can Still Work!

    Not all of us are uber planners.  Some of us need to catch our breath before launching into another big program.  Those folks start planning trips after the holiday concerts are done, January classes are set, and reality sets in that a music trip hasn’t been booked quite yet.  Never fear!  There’s still time!

    Give us a call – our experience and ideas will help you arrange an outstanding trip that includes all the essentials – learning, fun, and performance!  After all, we’ve been developing terrific resources for 25 years.  A great festival trip to your choice destination is just a phone call away.

    Our team at Forum will answer your questions and guide you towards a festival trip that meets both your budget and interests.  How about five tips to get you started?

    1.  Be flexible.  If you didn’t start planning earlier, give us a range of dates that will work in your schedule.  Popular festivals fill up quickly.  If you are planning an overnight trip, hotels and attractions also fill up quickly.  Have an open mind and let’s get started!
    2. Explore alternate activities.  So, your group didn’t make the cut-off for a popular theme park workshop?  Let us help you find an alternate educational experience that fits the bill.  Maybe be a clinic or performance that you hadn’t considered before or an afternoon at the Philharmonic or theatre would appeal to your students.
    3. Don’t delay decision making.  When time is not on your side, be prepared to make quick decisions so you don’t lose out. Making speedy decisions may not be in your comfort zone but collecting everyone’s opinions at this date may impede the possibility of doing the activity that you really wanted to include.
    4. Fundraisers and finances are the facts of life.  If you haven’t collected funds for the trip, it doesn’t mean the trip is off.  At Forum, we have suggestions that allow you to enjoy a trip on a budget.  Early fundraising is beneficial, but options are available that make it possible for your students to travel.
    5. Don’t shortchange your itinerary if it jeopardizes safety and security.  We never recommend loading a charter bus in the evening to drive through the night.   Night driving challenges include driver physical and mental fatigue.  Most accidents happen during the hours of 2:00-4:00 AM.    Instead, consider staying the night and driving home the next morning.  Safety is the most important element of the trip. 

    You might be getting a late start, but you can still your students with a fantastic and rewarding trip this year.  We’re only a phone call away and invite you to pick up the phone. 



    PS – Looking for a destination outside of California or our festival season?  We can help with that, too.  Let’s chat about student tour ideas that will spark your students’ enthusiasm.  Email or call – info@forumtravel.org / 1-888-763-6786.

    The Gift of…

    At this beautiful season, we can’t help but think of all the gifts that music education provides to students and teachers.   As we celebrate our 25th year, we’re honored to be part of those gifts.

    The gift of music is magical.  The hope and joy imparted to both performer and listener cannot be taken lightly.

    The gift of travel changes our perspective and our story.  Experiencing the world outside our own understanding sheds new light on other cultures and experiences. 

    The gift of learning drives us to find the answers.  Music teachers are often recalled as mentors and inspiration as we seek success.

    Thank you for your continued support and partnership.  We extend our warmest wishes for a holiday season filled with all the many gifts that you impart to others:  Happiness, warmth, and wonder.

    Your Friends at Forum Music Festivals and Forum Educational Travel.

    How Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Impacted Music Education

    Recently, this article regarding Mister Rogers’ impact on music education appeared in the NAfME e-newsletter.  Given its timeliness with the release of the recent movie as well as his enduring legacy that touches parents, teachers, and all of us, we are honored to reprint the article here.

    This article was originally posted on Cued In, the J. W. Pepper blog.

    The link for the original article is here.

    It’s said the first thing Fred Rogers did when he returned home from emergency surgery for stomach cancer was go straight to his piano. His wife Joanne has shared with friends how much her husband loved playing that piano. His grandmother bought the nine-foot Steinway concert grand for Fred when he was only a teenager. He used that piano for the rest of his life, including when he composed songs for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and when he played some of his favorite pieces, like Misty.

    “Joanne has described standing in the next room until Fred finished when he was playing with such reverie,” Faulkner University professor Art Williams said.

    Williams has extensively studied how Mister Rogers has affected music education. Like many others, Williams grew up watching the program. When Williams was in high school, he wrote letters to both Fred Rogers and the program’s jazz pianist, Johnny Costa. Both of them wrote him back with words of encouragement. Costa inspired Williams to study music education.

    “Looking back, I realized to what extent the music on Mister Rogers influenced my love of jazz and my desire to study music,” Williams said.

    That effect was so strong for Williams and many others because of the ways both music and child psychology concepts were treasured on the program.

    The Musical Foundation of Mister Rogers

    Much of the show’s philosophy stemmed from Rogers’ experiences with his grandfather, Fred Brooks McFeely. As the Los Angeles Times noted, Rogers told book writer Jeanne Marie Laskas that his grandfather once said to him, “You know, you made this day a really special day just by being yourself. There’s only one person in the world like you, and I happen to like you just the way you are.”

    That idea stuck when Rogers later attended Rollins College to major in music composition. When Rogers began his television program, he worked hand in hand with renowned child psychologist Dr. Margaret McFarland to ensure he could create songs that would reach young viewers. Rogers wrote over 200 songs for his TV neighborhood, concentrating primarily on the lyrics and the melody.

    Costa and his jazz trio provided the flourish. Costa was a master pianist who was highly regarded for his ability to improvise. He altered his piano playing every time a song was played, including the opening and closing numbers. He also improvised when Rogers was talking, setting the stage for Rogers to powerfully convey his messages.

    Johnny Costa wrote down simplified versions of his jazz arrangements before he passed away in 1996. His work inspired other artists like Paul Murtha to publish arrangements like this one for today’s students.

    From the first sounds of the program to the last, Costa was determined not to dumb down any of the music. The opening piano notes in Won’t You Be My Neighbor that started each episode were inspired by the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in C Major, Opus 2, No. 3.

    “Johnny was working on the Beethoven sonata and thought it would make a nice intro if he just put his thumb down while playing to create four-part harmony instead of three,” Williams said.

    Rogers composed Won’t You Be My Neighbor in 1963 after the show began in Canada. It was kept when the program transferred to the United States. The original closing number for Mister Rogers though was a composition called Tomorrow (listen to it here on YouTube). Rogers wrote It’s Such a Good Feeling in 1969, which was later adopted as the traditional closing.

    These pieces helped create the musical foundation of the show.

    “Fred said music was the heartbeat of it all. The program has a musical grid. He even composed the script in sonata form,” Williams said.

    He explains that the exposition of the “sonata” was when Rogers brought an object that would set forth the idea of the day. The development would include travels as the viewer saw how the idea unfolded. The recapitulation was when Rogers revisited and interpreted what had been done that day.

    Underlying it all was the show’s patient pace. Composer Tom Trenney, who also credits Mister Rogers with inspiring his life’s work, says the program’s use of routine and reflective moments can be duplicated in the music classroom and beyond.

    “We often do the same thing again and again to create some calm,” Trenney said. “There’s a joy in resting and gently creating quiet space. A moment of silence in choir rehearsal can make the music much more intentional.”

    Ways the Show Influenced Music Education

    Fred Rogers and Art Williams on the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on April 10, 1997. Photo courtesy of Art Williams. All rights reserved.

    Beyond the overall structure of the program, Mister Rogers had specific ways it promoted music education and child development. Williams defined six ways in his dissertation:

    • Original Compositions – The songs on the program demonstrated how powerful it is to combine lyrics with melody in ways that help an audience address common aspects of life. For children, that included everything from welcoming a baby brother or sister to dealing with fears about going down the bathtub drain. The program also frequently discussed how to handle emotions.
    • Music Underscore – Williams says that with the help of Costa, the music became “a character of its own.” The improvised jazz played throughout the program was unlike anything children would have heard on other shows at the time.
    • Operas Composed – Thirteen children’s operas were produced for the show. Rogers’ former classmate John Reardon was an opera singer who performed in the works. The program showed the process of creating the opera throughout the week so children could see the collaboration involved in the production.
    • Musical Guests – The program frequently featured musicians, both professional and amateur. Guests were regularly asked if they enjoyed playing as a child and how they played if they had strong emotions, including sadness or anger. Famous guests included cellist Yo-Yo Ma, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, singer Tony Bennett, violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist André Watts. Grammy award-winning artist Esperanza Spalding has said seeing Yo-Yo Ma on an episode inspired her to learn how to play the bass.
    • Music Lessons – Rogers frequently had segments designed to teach children about music. He showed how instruments were made, shared a staff with notes, and went to the music shop on the set for lessons. Williams says Rogers followed the Quaker idea that “attitudes are caught, not taught.” With that mind, he enjoyed featuring professionals who not only loved what they did but also worked hard to achieve their goals.
    • Musical Messages – Music was always presented in a positive light on the program. Rogers would ask the children if music made them feel like singing or dancing and what instruments they may like to play. The set also included posters on the walls and other visible things that encouraged music lessons and positive attitudes towards music. It was the best form of subliminal advertising.

    The combined effect was that children continually were exposed to noteworthy details about music. As Williams said, “It was probably the largest music appreciation classroom there’s ever been.”

    Composer Tom Trenney has given multiple presentations about “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Here he poses with David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely, at a fundraiser for people with special needs. Photo courtesy of Tom Trenney

    The Big Message for Educators

    Trenney focused on these big-picture ideas during a presentation on Mister Rogers at the National Conference of the American Choral Directors Association. As a composer and conductor, Trenney has taken to heart Rogers’ practice of regularly sharing thoughts about how we should treat our neighbors with openness and inclusion. Trenney keeps that in mind when picking text for his compositions and repertoire for his choirs to sing.

    “We should use the holy ground of choir to sing about love, hope, light and faith. If we don’t do it in treasured times when we choose the words on people’s lips, who are we looking to do that?” Trenney said.

    Trenney also appreciated Rogers’ gentle nature in a world and time when men were often expected to be tough. Trenney says it’s notable that Rogers always stayed true to who he was.

    “Think about how much the world changed in the 30 years from 1968 until the early 2000s. And you know he had the same curtains and the same sweaters the whole time,” Trenney said. “It wasn’t about being novel and trendy. It was about having a message that said to somebody, ‘I love you just the way you are. There’s no one else like you. There never has been, and there never will be.’”

    You can learn more about Fred Rogers at the Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and at Fred Rogers Productions.

    View works by Fred Rogers here.

    How to Promote the Music Trip

    Gaining support for organizing the perfect trip can be frustrating and time-consuming.  You need a strategy for creating a base of support from parents, students, and administration.  We’re here to share some great guidelines for promoting your trip.

    Enlist the help of another teacher! 

    If you and another teacher at your school or in your district share a vision for what a music trip will look like, consider joining together.  You automatically have doubled your base of support when you create a travel team partner.  And you can collaborate on idea exchanges with a fellow travel buddy.

    Share your enthusiasm each day in class.

    Talking up the trip is just the beginning.  Consider bringing in instructional elements that engage your students and are relevant to the trip.  For example, if you are performing a march at festival, tie in a visit to the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles who offers a workshop on The Music of War.  Check out the San Francisco Symphony’s website for a First Timer’s Guide and use that as a springboard to teach your students about what they are going to experience.

    Share your enthusiasm at a parent meeting.

    Get your parents behind the trip by hosting an information meeting as soon as possible.  Be prepared to cover the benefits of student travel, any safety concerns that may come up, and filling in parents with a detailed itinerary.  Be ready to answer parent’s questions about the trip, the finances, and the goal.

    Social media is your friend. 

    Be creative about ways to broadcast excitement for the trip.  Launch a Facebook page about the trip, the area, a packing list, what to bring, what will be performed.  Consider adding Instagram or Twitter to your toolbox.  Encourage students to post details about the trip – their hopes, their connections, their top ten list of what they want to experience.

    Budget accordingly.

    Offer fundraising opportunities.  Be realistic about activities and meals – make it affordable so more students will be able to attend.  Put together some options with your boosters or grant money for scholarships towards students in need of a little extra help.

    Rely on Specialists.

    At Forum, we’ve been organizing music trips for 25 years.  If you need a helping hand, consider consulting our professional music travel experts who can carve out a fantastic trip for your students and stay within your budget.  Because we’ve been at this for so long, we have networking associations and longstanding relationships with hotels, attractions, and bus companies to make your music trip planning a breeze.   If offering your students a chance to travel is on your wish list, we’d love to talk to you.  Keep these tips in mind and let’s work together to make a successful trip an awesome experience for you and your students!

    Survival Guide for First-Time Group Travel

    Consider using a tour operator. 

    Your expertise is teaching.  A travel planner’s expertise is to know the nuts and bolts of millions of elements that make a trip run smoothly.  Many directors or booster clubs think they can do it themselves on the cheap.  A travel planner earns bulk discounts with hotels, restaurants, and attractions by regular business.  Our connections save you money.  Collaborating with a tour operator also provides you with a sounding board about ideas, problems, and questions as they come up.

    Set your goal for the trip.

    Solidifying your focus makes many decisions easier for you.   Communicating that goal will help generate excitement to your students which is at the core of keeping attrition down, fundraising up, and the momentum going straight ahead.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t mix in fun along with the learning but having a clear mind about your plan makes the trip much simpler.

    Establish rules early and often

    Having students and families sign a “behavior contract” notifies everyone about what is expected during the trip.  Choosing great chaperones is another way to keep behavior on track.  Prepare your travelers by establishing your policy on cell phones, boys & girls at the hotel, and theatre etiquette.

    Put on a happy face!

    Your high spirits during the trip will boost your students through fatigue, homesickness, and other factors that contribute to lethargy.  As you and your travel planner are planning the trip, be mindful of keeping your students engaged, but not allowing too much or too little on the itinerary.

    Flexibility is key.

    Things happen.  Prepare your students for schedule changes, back-up plans, and a few tiresome travel companions here and then.  What a great lesson you are offering your students outside of their music studies!  Flexibility is a great life asset and traveling together is an awesome way to practice it.

    Why Strings?

    The American String Teachers Association (ASTA) is an organization whose mission is to provide professional development, career building and support, and a community of peers for all teachers of stringed instruments. The organization promotes advocacy for string programs and string teachers through many brochures and publications available on their website at www.astaweb.com

    As members of ASTA’s corporate The String Industry Council, Forum Festivals proudly supports and serves the needs of string educators and students.  As music programs are launched throughout the country, we thought it would be helpful to share a reprint of one of their most popular brochures promoting recruitment and advocacy.

    Why Strings?

    Participation in a school and/or studio string instrument program enhances a child’s quality of life. It provides creative, emotional, and social opportunities and unifies communities.

    • Research on brain development has shown string players brains are larger, have more neural pathways, and process information faster.
    • All children are capable of learning to play a stringed instrument, regardless of “talent,” “giftedness,” or musical background. String classes have been successfully taught to diverse populations and in diverse settings.
    • Unlike most other musical instruments, stringed instruments come in a variety of sizes so that children as young as three years old can begin instruction.
    • Orchestral music, which is considered one of Western culture’s greatest treasures, cannot be performed without stringed instruments.
    • Contemporary music increasingly relies on strings. Some of the popular musical genres that feature stringed instruments include jazz, country, pop, and various folk styles. Other world cultures also use stringed instruments in their music making.
    • Lifelong opportunities to perform on a stringed instrument abound. According to the American Symphony Orchestra League, opportunities exist for adult musicians in more than 1,600 orchestras in the United States. Professionals in all fields have played stringed instruments for lifelong fulfillment, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.
    • Playing a stringed instrument enhances the enjoyment of music, and leads to a lifelong appreciation of music. An estimated 25 million people currently attend concerts each year in the United States.
    • Colleges and universities may need string players for their orchestras and may offer scholarships to qualified students regardless of their intended academic major.
    • Opportunities also abound for undergraduate string education and performance majors. Today, more than 8,000 string teaching positions exist in public schools alone, and performers have opportunities to teach in studios, community music schools, and in orchestra community outreach programs.

    Communities benefit from area schools that offer a full complement of fine arts courses, including stringed instrument study. Businesses often appraise the cultural climate of a region when making decisions about where to locate.

    In every school, there are students who are inherently attracted to the sound of stringed instruments. Without a string and orchestra program to provide access to string education, students are denied the possibility of realizing their potential.

    For information about the American String Teachers Association, please visit our website: www.astastrings.org

    5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Festival

    1. Is the festival scheduled in an appropriate venue?

    Choosing a festival with a great performance venue really makes a big difference to your students.  Many times, we’ve heard from discouraged directors who scheduled another festival where a school cafeteria, a multi-purpose room, or a gymnasium was considered a suitable venue.  At Forum, that’s just not our style!  Forum venues include college theatres, local auditoriums, or civic theatres that support good acoustics and a high level of professionalism.  A good sound system and professional set-up encourages your students to perform their best.

    2. What large equipment will be provided?

    Don’t assume that you will or won’t have to bring large percussion equipment to the festival.  The festival should provide a percussion list that will be made available to your students onstage.  Knowledge is power and it’s good to know what will be available to you.

    3. Is it non-competitive or a competition?

    It’s fun to be the winner of a competition, but perhaps your students aren’t ready for that quite yet.  After 25 years, I’ve realized that many top groups steer clear of the ranking at competitive festivals in lieu of an encouragement-style, educational festival.  Competitions certainly have their place, but student musicians deserve support and constructive feedback as well as an opportunity to hear and appreciate other student ensembles without worrying about their position on the leaderboard. We want students to leave feeling good about their performance and their experience with Forum.

    4. How can I make sure this is a learning experience?

    • Question the festival organizer about the festival format so you can talk to your students about theatre etiquette and how to be generous audience members and participants.
    • Request a blank adjudication form to review with your students.  Consider having them bring the form to quietly “adjudicate” other performances to discuss back in the classroom.
    • Delve deeper into the literature chosen by you as well as other groups.  Cultural, historical, as well as musical threads are interwoven in music and this is your opportunity to develop your students’ knowledge about each of these elements.
    • Where and when does the awards ceremony take place?  Plan to attend to support the other festival performances and to see how everything comes out. Your students deserve the chance to be a part of this important event.
    • Will the judges write and record comments that can be used back in the classroom as a teaching tool?  At Forum, we also provide a clear recording without comments so your students can hear and comment on their own performance.

    5. How will my students feel when they leave the festival?

    If you are training your students to play to the best of their abilities and you are not communicating a level of disappointment regarding the results, your students should leave the festival with a positive feeling about moving forward with their music studies.  Evaluation is a good thing, if it is handled in a constructive, encouraging, and positive way.  Choose music that your students can play.  The biggest complaint from adjudicators is with directors who select music that is too challenging for students to perform.  Direct the ensemble in front of you. By giving your students a chance to feel successful, they will focus on sharing their music with their peers and feeling satisfied that the hours of preparation were worthwhile.   

    Setting Up a Jazz Program

    Developing a jazz band at your school can be fun and inspiring.  A jazz band can serve as a mighty tool for recruiting. It helps students with sight reading.  It teaches leadership, self-confidence, and reinforces creative expression.  If your background does not specifically include jazz performance, you can still start a jazz program for your students.

    Prepare yourself:

    1.  Observe colleagues with strong jazz programs.  Attending their rehearsals and concerts, both at the high school and college level, will help you build your skills.
    2. Listen to Big Band recordings – current and classic.  Don’t forget about the excellent music from local or regional bands.
    3. Attend workshops and conferences that include help for beginning jazz band instructors.
    4. Research materials appropriate for teaching and encouraging improvisation – the whole point of jazz!
    5. Don’t be afraid to ask.  Many jazz educators can advise you or present a “Jazz Band 101” presentation to your group.

    Other considerations before you get started: 

    1.  What equipment will we need?
      • Small trap set – local instrument store can advise.
      • Electric bass and amp.  Stand up bass will need appropriate strings and a pickup.
      • Piano
      • Mutes:  Harmon, Bucket, and Cup Mutes for trombone and trumpet sections
      • A couple of beginning method books to teach style and rhythmic articulation
    2.  Should you select members by audition or all-inclusive?
    3. When will jazz band meet? If outside school hours,how will rehearsals be set up?
    4. Jazz band is an added commitment.  Inform parents & students early about concert dates and rehearsals.  Expect more from your jazz students – they must come to class prepared and responsible to the group.
    5. Encourage students to double on secondary instruments.  Adjudicators love to see flexibility and creativity, but don’t sacrifice intonation and proficiency.
    6. Recruit from outside your band program.  Don’t overlook a guitarist, a vocalist, or a pianist not already in your concert band.  There are some jewels out there waiting to be discovered.

    Some points to sell your idea to students, parents, and administration:

    1. How will jazz band benefit the instrumental program?  Students develop new concepts, better recognize musical nuance, learn new vocabulary, and prepare for leadership in other groups.
    2. Stronger, more talented players can be featured one on a part.
    3. Jazz is known as “The American Art Form.”  Learning about traditional jazz artists and its historical value shores up what students are already learning in history and literature classes.
    4. Cooperation among members – an essential consideration.  Although jazz allows for solo and improvisation, it also requires balance and teamwork.  As Wynton Marsalis noted, “You must listen.  You must have a conversation.  The group must work together to achieve its goals.”

    Okay – you did it!  You established a jazz band at your school.  Now what?

    1. When ready, take your band on the road! An encouragement-style festival offers helpful written and recorded feedback from adjudicators.  At Forum, we record performances which can be played back in your classroom – a motivator for improved playing!
    2. Look for opportunities to showcase the jazz band!  They can play at Open House, fast food openings, sporting events – lots of experience and lots of PR!
    3. Introduce all kinds of jazz in your classroom – Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Marian McPartland, Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall, the list goes on and on!  All the greats and all the standards.
    4. Join the ranks of your jazzy colleagues.  Join a jazz educator’s organization (i.e. California Alliance for Jazz), invite a colleague to rehearse your band.  Invite a jazz artist, or guest jazz band from the local college to visit your classroom.  Contact Forum if you would like a referral for a jazz band clinician!

    Lots of things to consider, but at its core, you’ll decide whether developing a jazz program is something you want for your students.  Rewards are plentiful, but there’s no shortage of hard work.  Only you, given your background, your motivation, and your school’s make up, can determine this.  But once you get started, keep on swingin!

    How to Feed A Student Group

    When taking a student group on any trip, you are faced with the prospect of feeding a lot of hungry teenagers.  Feeding the endlessly ravenous can be a pretty daunting task.  How about a short list of ideas to feed the crowd?

    •  Meal vouchers – Offered at most theme parks, students can individually redeem vouchers for specific menu items or for dollar amounts as listed on the card.
    • Pizza for all!  – Most pizza restaurants will deliver pizza, salad, soda, and paper goods to a location you determine.  Check with the hotel to see if outside food is allowed on the premises.  Or arrange delivery at a park or picnic area.  Pizza is economical, popular, and always well-received by the student crowd.  Always remember – encouraging students (and adults) to clean up after themselves will ensure another invitation!
    • Buffets and Cafeterias.  Choices, choices, choices – always a great option for picky eaters.  Buffet restaurants usually offer student-friendly menus, quick service, and space for groups.  Buffet restaurants such as Golden Corral, Souplantation, Clifton’s Cafeteria, Hometown Buffet, and a myriad of local restaurants that serve buffet-style have low prices, lots of choices, and a student-friendly atmosphere.
    • College campuses.  If you are performing at a college campus, check out the options in the college cafeteria.  They are designed to feed a young, hungry population on a low-income budget.  Boxed lunches or cafeteria-style eating is often conveniently available.
    • Food Courts.  Many large shopping centers feature a central food court which can handle groups.  Most likely, students will need to bring their own money, but they can choose what they want, including familiar fast food restaurants that cater to the teenage crowd.
    • Destination meal vouchers.  Some sightseeing destinations have great meal plans.  For example, at Pier 39’s program in San Francisco, vouchers at three different price points will buy a variety of items at many restaurants.  At Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, an all-day dining plan provides a wristband allowing students to select an entrée and side as often as every 90-minutes throughout the day at a budget-friendly price. 
    • Finale Dinner or Welcome Dinner.  Here’s a chance to build in a nice restaurant meal for your group on either your first evening or the final evening of the trip.  We have many suggestions for these restaurant meals that include meal, beverage, dessert, gratuity and tax – all inclusive.  Cement the good vibes by kicking off the trip with a Welcome Dinner.  Or relieve some lasting memories and educational high points with a Finale Dinner on your last evening! 

    We’d love to hear your ideas.  As you have traveled with your student groups, what best works for your students?  Feel free to exchange ideas for great meal options by emailing us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.  Bon Appetit!

    Why Should I Register Early?

    1. It takes the pressure off remembering to register when school starts.
    2. Your first choice date is locked in.
    3. You can announce your plans to parents & boosters at Back-to-School night.
    4. Potential students are attracted to sign up for band, orchestra, choir, etc.
    5. More time for fundraising!
    6. It allows more time for grant writing or to request funding from community groups.
    7. You give enough notice for the festival to hire expert adjudicators who will address your group’s specific musical genre.
    8. Early bird discounts may be available!
    9. More time to musically prepare your ensemble for the event!
    10. Because organized directors PLAN AHEAD!

    Checklist for end of the year!

    1. Include your students in a big musical thank you to administration & staff for supporting the music program this year!
    2. Include your students in a big musical thank you to their parents and boosters!
    3. Tell your students to sign up for next year and give them a reason why they should!  (Music trip, friendship, choir/band/orchestra banquet)
    4. Clean and repair!  Do yourself a favor (or the colleague who follows you) when school ends by cleaning your classroom and repairing your equipment!
    5. Make time for some end-of-the-year fun in the classroom!  After the final concert when the days are winding down, consider having a fun day with Name That Tune, or Karaoke or Musical Charades.
    6. Plan now for next year.  Don’t forget to register for your first choice festival date!  (www.forummusicfestivals.com)
    7. Give yourself a pat on the back!  You made it through another school year.  Time to recharge and take care of yourself so you’ll be ready to start again with another roomful of fresh faces!

    NYC Music Teacher Honored as Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize

    It’s Teacher Appreciation Week!  Never too late or too early to thank a teacher for his or her impact on your life! 

    Melissa Salguero built an remarkable music program at P.S. 48 in New York City.  When she started, the program had absolutely no instruments, no funding, and the school hadn’t had a music program for over thirty years.   With grants, teaching awards, and an enthused teaching style, she welcomes any student who wishes to participate in the music program, regardless of financial hardship.  P.S.48 is located in the South Bronx, one of the country’s poorest congressional districts.  Not only has Ms. Salguero been recognized as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, she has also been awarded Lincoln Center Arts Teacher of the Year, and a 2018 Grammy Music Educator Awards, among many other accolades and honors. 

    “Music education teaches us more than the “right” notes.  It teaches us to create, express, and it connects us all,” she exclaims.

    At Forum Music Festivals, we have the good fortune each week during the spring to see hundreds of music teachers hard at work impacting the lives of their students. At festival, the students and teacher can see what their efforts have achieved.  From the NAfME website, we share a few thoughts written by music educators who posted about being a music educator.

    • Being a music teacher means I get to reach students who other teachers may have “written off.” Everyone is creative!
    • Teaching means sharing the world of music with my students! 
    • Being a music educator is more than teaching the music, it’s about teaching life, love, & being a “family” 
    • Being a teacher means I get to teach students to love and appreciate music as much as I do! 
    • I love teaching how to play with emotion.
    • Being a music teacher means that I get to live life around creativity. It is so exciting to work with students as they find a place where they can truly think and create within the school.

    So, hats off to all of you in music education! You are doing challenging, but important work!  We appreciate you and you deserve every cheer and smile you receive this week!

    Celebrity Musicians

    Your students are lining up to choose classes for next year. The time to recruit students for your music program continues.  How about sharing with your school community a list of famous people who participated in school music programs?  Maybe you’ll light an artistic fire in a celebrity of the future!

    1. Blake Lively – The Gossip Girl showed off her singing and dancing skills in Show Choir at Tarzana High School.
    2. Brad Pitt – Sang in his high school choir in Springfield, Missouri
    3. Steven Spielberg – Clarinetist – You’ll hear him featured with a high school orchestra in the movie “Jaws.”
    4. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, wanted to play the flute, but was assigned the tuba in school.
    5. Anne Hathaway performed with her award-winning high school choir at the All-Eastern U.S. High School Honors Chorus at Carnegie Hall.
    6. President Barack Obama, known for being a notable public speaker was a member of his high school’s choir in 1977.
    7. Who knew that Gwen Stefani was also a flutist at Loara High School?
    8. Tina Fey was a member of her school choir and played the flute at Upper Darby High.
    9. Race car driver Danica Patrick also sang in her high school choir and played flute in the band.
    10. Barbra Streisand went to high school with Neil Diamond. Both sang in the school choir.
    11. Samuel L. Jackson, French Horn and Trumpet, marched in his high school band and played in the orchestra.
    12. Joe Montana – NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback had another lesser known talent off the football field – singing in his high school choir.
    13. Fergie – Lead singer of The Black Eyed Peas, sang in choir at Mesa Robles Middle School and Wilson High School.
    14. Halle Berry – Flute player at her high school in Ohio.
    15. Ewan McGregor – Turns out Obi Wan Kenobi is a pretty good French Horn player having studied seriously in his native Scotland.
    16. Jennifer Garner – A self-confessed band geek, Jennifer Garner serenaded Reese Witherspoon on Instagram for her birthday – full marching uniform and saxophone.
    17. Pharrell Williams played the snare drum and keyboards and met his best friend in summer band camp.
    18. Emily Blunt played the cello in high school and showed off her skills in her early movie role, “My Summer of Love.”
    19. NBA Star, Vince Carter, and actress, Eva Longoria, both served their high school marching bands as drum major.

    Can your students find any other famous folks who got their creative energy by performing in high school music programs? 

    Exploring Music Down a Different Trail

    Over the past 24 years, we’ve hosted thousands of music groups at festivals.  But, guitar ensemble registrations have markedly risen over the last 10 years.  NAfME’s ongoing series, “50 States of Guitar Class,” features interviews with respected music educators across the country.   According to the series, some programs have developed because of the teacher’s own familiarity with the instrument; other programs have grown out of traditional genres – band, orchestra, and choir – with non-guitarist instructors who’ve been tasked with teaching guitar. To read the ongoing series (they are currently on #7 out of 50), visit NAfME’s site.

    Here’s some highpoints from the articles plus our own observations as festival producers:

    1. Guitar is hugely popular. The guitar uniquely speaks to teens and can be played in many different genres of music.  Its versatility appeals to students who love folk, jazz, classical, blues, Flamenco and rock. Its appeal is enduring.
    2. “Guitar gave several struggling students something to look forward to on a daily basis.” So reported Vicki Boyle, Guitar Teacher in Bristol, Rhode Island.  Guitar students often have unique personalities.  With guitar instruction, you’ll likely see students thrive who wouldn’t necessarily fit into a regular band or choral set up.
    3. Offering performances in many different venues builds a guitar program by exposing students to the community and other students. “…treating the guitar ensemble as any other ensemble such as band or chorus has helped grow the program. The guitar ensembles are revered throughout our towns and in our school” (Vicki Boyle)
    4. A guitar is relatively inexpensive. Most students will be able to find access to a guitar.
    5. Learn as much as you can from folks who know. Successful programs often have teachers who network with local colleges or state music associations.  Tap into the expertise of college guitar majors to offer “master classes” or to mentor exceptional young guitarists.  Chris Perez, a Director of Guitar Studies in Orlando, Florida encourages non-guitarist music educators to collaborate with colleagues. “Working with others and asking questions will help you be more solid in delivering quality guitar instruction and music teaching to your students. “

    Forum Festivals hires college-level guitar educators as adjudicators.  The ensemble can demonstrate technique and get constructive feedback.  As you consider competitions or festivals, ask who will be adjudicating.  If your school’s band, orchestra, or choir is going on a music trip, consider welcoming your guitar ensemble to come along.

    1. You are teaching a lifelong skill.  Some students may go on to successful careers, but all will develop an appreciation for the instrument and be able to perform for friends and family. Sometimes we get so caught up in lessons, concerts, fundraisers, paperwork, etc., that it can be easy to forget the power music has to change lives,” reminds Steven Sabet of the Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy in Elizabeth, NJ.
    2. It’s okay to learn technique and play songs, according to Vin Downes who teaches in New Jersey. Many at-risk students are interested in studying guitar, but meeting them where they are means teaching the fundamentals in order to play a few songs to get started. Its benefits include teamwork in an ensemble, but it is also an individual instrument.
    3. Guitar instruction doesn’t take away from band, orchestra, or choir enrollment. Schools offering guitar usually show an overall increase in music studies.

    As guitar instruction continues to thrive in schools across the country, we’re very pleased to welcome an increasing number of guitar ensembles to festival.  Networking with college-level guitar educators is just one of many positive elements of bringing guitar students to be seen and heard at festival.  Organizing a trip with your guitar students can also include college clinics, concerts and performances with guitar artists, exchange concerts, and more.   For more information about expanding your program to include an adjudicated festival, contact office@forummusicfestivals.com.  We’re here as a resource for your guitar students and program.  Guitar has a global appeal. At Forum, it’s rewarding to be connected with guitar educators who embrace this common community of musicians.

    Bugging the Adjudicator

    A young middle school jazz band instructor recently came to a festival armed with handwritten notes on school notepaper and thrust them at me on the way to the warm up room. His plea as he ran – “Please make the judges read this!”  Wading through the notes, I learned that Johnny so and so had dropped out last week because his family had moved, and Suzie so and so had to take on the baritone sax in his stead, and how the program was very new and the boundaries in their district had changed, and on the first piece, please overlook the 2nd solo because the student’s regular instrument was in the repair shop, and on and on. You get the picture.

    From my previous conversations with him, I knew that this director had been working very hard to build his program. He clearly cared about his students’ performance, but his nervousness was evident to me and, more importantly, to his students.  In his state of anxiety he had forgotten the judges’ music scores and had barely made the bus thereby shortening the warm-up, but he wanted to explain his way to a better performance.

    In this case, the adjudicators wanted to hear the group and to judge them based on their performance – not on the handwritten excuses provided by the director. The notes were handed back to me without being read.

    Experienced adjudicators are music professionals who typically want to help, not tear apart, the director and their students.  Sometimes they are seen as “bad guys” and worry many directors.  Although their efforts are often under appreciated, the constructive adjudicator provides a needed element if you want to improve the music your students are making: impartial feedback.

    But, if you still really want to BUG the adjudicator at festival, several prominent adjudicators provide these surefire tips.

    • Select music that is technically and musically above the students’ abilities.

    Probably the most commonly cited error seen at festivals, it is usually tied directly to the director’s lack of experience.  Remove those blinders and accurately assess your group’s strengths and weaknesses. Then select the music accordingly. If unsure, ask an experienced colleague to evaluate your group’s level. An adjudicator must score based on the performance he or she hears. If that performance is one in which the performers struggle through the entire piece, the score will reflect the result. Remember – the adjudicator is not judging Mozart, or Beethoven, or Sousa – the adjudicator is judging your group’s interpretation and ability to perform the piece.

    • Bore the adjudicator by performing all music at one dynamic level.

    No question – it is challenging to teach young musicians to perform with dynamic or stylistic differences.  A young musician hangs on by the fingernails just trying to get the notes out, let alone keeping down the decibels. Whereas this problem consistently bugs the adjudicator, it’s also worthy to note that using dynamic contrast in your program will tend to impress the adjudicator.  Bring some tunes and artists in to the band or choir room to influence your students musically and to demonstrate what you are trying to get them to understand.  If you are unfamiliar with the music that most young teens are listening to, ask them to bring in a sample.  Upon hearing it, you may better understand why dynamics is a misunderstood concept to most beginning music students!

    • Use photocopied music scores or provide no scores at all.

    Here they come – dressed in beautiful costly concert dress or uniforms, playing expensive instruments, arriving in deluxe charter buses, but pleading that photocopied music scores for the judges are the best they could do.   Judges aren’t buying it and neither should you. If scores are not available because they are “out of print,” present a letter of authorization from the publisher along with the photocopies.

    • Tune your group on stage.

    Every festival organizer should provide ample time and space for groups to warm up.  By insisting on a prolonged tune up onstage, the director may as well announce the group’s weaknesses to the adjudicators prior to the actual performance itself.  The director who not only indulges in a lingering onstage tune-up, but also uses the opportunity to nitpick weak spots in sections or, worse yet, among individual student musicians tries the patience of judges and fellow participants.

    • Perform your concert in the warm-up room.

    This overtaxes the brass players who then tire in performance and the pitch suffers.  The warm-up period is just that – warming up for the performance at hand. You’ve already had your rehearsals – use this time to allow everyone to tune, give the students a few last minute reminders, encouragement, and you’re good to go!  Please don’t deny your students the excitement of the performance itself.

    • Don’t time your music.

    Adjudicators need a few minutes to give a good critique at the end of a performance. By ignoring the guidelines set down by the festival and overextending your performance, you are causing delays for other performers.  Adjudicators are under pressure to stay on time. Playing one more selection over the suggested time limit that you just know everyone wants to hear seldom changes the adjudicators’ opinion of the strengths and weaknesses, but is seen as a breach of festival etiquette and a lack of courtesy to others.

    • Conduct your choir from the piano.

    Directors that act as accompanist leave their traditional choir without a conductor.  You cannot help your choir and maintain control listening carefully to problems if you are behind a keyboard. What if your group cannot afford an accompanist?  Better to pre-record your accompaniment and use a playback tape during festival than to use the nodding head choral conducting style.   Another excellent alternative would be to assign the job of accompanist to a capable student or possibly select material to be performed a cappella.

    • Sing along

    Ask yourself – am I singing with my performers because they can’t remember the words?  Because I really like the tune?  Because I like to hear myself sing?  Be their conductor, not another member of the group.  You can’t hear what your sections need you to hear if you are humming or singing along.

    Directors tend to look at a festival as a sort of personal report card. Be assured – festival adjudicators are not the “bad guys;” they’re just people like you who have worked their way through the ups and downs of music education and maybe learned something along the way. They choose to adjudicate because they believe that their input can help groups to improve. No one sets out to actually “bug” the adjudicator at a festival.  But ticking off a mental checklist of these no-nos ahead of time puts your group in the best possible light and allows the sheer talent and skill of your performers to shine through.

    The Small Programs

    In our history, we’ve welcomed groups of all sizes and abilities.  Whereas some festivals require a minimum number of students, that’s something that we’ve never done.  Because our founders were themselves music educators (with big programs, by the way), they felt that the quality of the program was not necessarily determined by the quantity of students.  And the same could be said of the reverse – just because the program is big doesn’t mean that the quality of the music is top notch.

    By requiring students to undertake their music studies with the same intensity that a big program requires, you are investing in their passion.  Student musicians in small programs simply cannot hide mistakes or sloppy practice habits, but they are often full of heart and the desire to improve or they would not be there.  And with the focus on educating the student and offering performance and learning opportunities, small programs sometimes become larger.  Nothing like success appeals to students to give music a try.

    Don Gunderson, one of our most popular adjudicators and a legend in Southern California music education, says, Conduct the band that is in front of you – not the one in your fantasy.” Each of your students deserves a teacher who believes that making music at the highest levels is the goal.  No, your program may not achieve the “wall of sound” that big programs have, but the success of the program may lie in selecting appropriate literature, motivating dedicated students, and the excellence of the result.

    And at Forum Music Festivals, we want to help music programs of all sizes and abilities accomplish those goals by providing an opportunity to perform in good venues and to expand their musical education with constructive feedback from adjudicators who see the spark.  Success comes in all sizes.  We want to be part of that effort.

    Holiday Greetings!

    As we get ready to celebrate the holidays, we reflect on the privilege of hosting many of you at festivals over the past 24 years. We hope that you will enjoy the holidays and focus on friends and family. Our staff wishes you the very best in the coming year and  a season of health, happiness and peace.

    Our offices will be closed from December 22 to January 2, however we will be answering emails and picking up phone messages.

    Happy Holidays and here’s to a New Year filled with great music!

    Preparing for the Holiday Concerts: Don’t Forget to Cover Stage Etiquette

    It’s that special time of year – excitement is definitely in the air!  You’re preparing your students for their holiday concert which is bound to bring a lot of angst to you and to them.  “I’ve only had them at school for a few short months.  What will we get when they file out on stage and face their school community, parents, and administrators?”

    Volumes have been written about proper audience etiquette, but it doesn’t hurt to remind your students that as performers, they need to show a certain level of consideration for the folks who came to see them.  Here’s a short list – your students can probably add a few more of their own ideas:

    1. Be respectful.  Your friends and family came there to support you.
    2. You are part of an ensemble – don’t sing or play in a way that makes you stand out. You may think it is funny, but it spoils the desired effect and disrespects the hard work of your peers.
    3. Listen to and focus on your director.
    4. Don’t carry your electronic device or phone onstage.
    5. Don’t wave to the audience and don’t talk to anyone onstage.
    6. NO gum!!
    7. Use your best posture.
    8. Grooming matters – iron your shirt, choose appropriate socks, and comb your hair.
    9. If you make a mistake, don’t show it in your body language or your face.
    10. Don’t wear a goofy elf hat unless your director gives permission.

    Good luck and enjoy the season!

    Happy Thanksgiving Sale!

    This holiday season, we’re thankful for loyal customers like you!


    In celebration of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we are offering a fabulous discount on one-day or overnight packages for select  San Diego area festivals.

    Join us for an all-in-one-day package with a San Diego festival plus a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo or Safari Park for  ONLY $69 per student and $49 per chaperone.
    Experience the wild kingdom with your students after your morning festival on March 30, April 27 or May 4, 2019.


    Overnight package for only $149 per person*

    • Adjudicated Forum Music Festival
    • San Diego Zoo or Safari Park Admission
    • One-night’s lodging at a gorgeous 3-diamond hotel in Hotel Circle
    • Delicious hot breakfast at your hotel
    • Complimentary director’s package for one director

    *Pricing based on quad occupancy, 1-night and festival participation.
    Pending availability at time of booking for hotel and festival.
    Additional room nights or activities available – contact Forum for options.
    Must be booked by December 31, 2018.

    Earth Without Art is Just “Eh”

    Published originally by the National Association for Music Education, written by Paul Fox

    We’re coming up to Thanksgiving… and school music and art teachers do have a lot for which to be thankful!

    In spite of all of the pressures involving student recruitment/retention and declining enrollments, equity/access to the arts, scheduling, budget, etc., we are among the few professionals who have “jumped into” a career of doing what we love! In our pilgrimage to promote and foster creative self-expression in the schools, music is life-long learning, and represents our personal mission/vision, our artistry, our vehicle to communicate and collaborate, our pastime and “play,” our inspiration, and what nurtures our souls!

    Why are we so “lucky” to serve as music teachers?

    1. Music is one of life’s greatest treasures!
    2. You will always have your music. Your employment is also your hobby, and even after 35 or more years, you will be inclined to continue your music throughout the “golden years” of retirement.
    3. There are so many ways you can “make a difference” in the lives of children with music. Whether it is singing, playing an instrument, composing, listening, feeling, or moving in response to music, music fills a basic need!
    4. Although music is an excellent vehicle for developing 21st Century learning skills (the four C’s of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication), participating in music for music’s sake is paramount. To find true meaning and personal artistry, you cannot review the arts without “doing” (or creating) the arts.
    5. Your joy of creative self-expression and “making music” will sustain you through almost anything… the good times and the bad! It will transfer to your students’ success in life.
    6. In most settings of school music courses and extra-curricular activities, your students make a conscious effort to choose you and the study of music in order to spend as much time together. “They may have to take math and English, but they also want their daily dose of music!”
    7. Newcomers to this field, you do not have to be right or perfect all the time in class. During your student teaching and early years on the job, if you are enthusiastic, dedicated, and respectful of the feelings of your students, your mistakes (and there will be many) will be forgiven. Besides, there are usually no “single right answers” in music and art – only opportunities for divergent and flexible thinking, adaptability, and personal expression.
    8. You’ll never forget your students… and when you bump into them after graduation, they will remind you all about “those good times!” Don’t be surprised when they tell you were the best part of their education.

    So, that’s why “earth” without “art” is just “eh!”

    Special Savings in April at San Diego Festival

    Discover sunny San Diego with your students at a deeply discounted festival rate!


    Join us on Saturday, April 6, 2019 for an epic event that includes:

    • Adjudicated Forum Music Festival
    • USS Midway Museum self-guided tour
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix film accompanied LIVE by the San Diego Symphony
    • One-night’s lodging at a gorgeous 3-diamond hotel in Hotel Circle
    • Delicious breakfast at the hotel
    • Complimentary director’s package for one director

    Exclusive pricing for this festival: $169* per student

    A great opportunity at a great price for students!

    Contact us today for more information.

    *Pricing based on quad occupancy, 1-night and festival participation.
    Pending availability at time of booking for hotel and symphony tickets.
    Additional room nights or activities available – contact Forum for options & pricing.
    Must be booked by December 1, 2018.


    New Bus Policy

    Safety is a top priority for Forum Music Festivals. We work hard to ensure all of our clients are safe and sound throughout the duration of their travel with us – whether a one-day or overnight trip. Our goal is to provide the most comfortable and enjoyable experience for your students.

    Staying current with the newest research and federal regulations, Forum Music Festivals has implemented a new bus policy for all motor coach transportation that we contract on behalf of our clients. In the past, many clients joined us for turnaround trips or for trips that include overnight driving. The decision to execute a new policy was not made lightly as we consider the best way forward for groups.   However, based on the increase of fatigue-related accidents, we are implementing the following policy in order to maintain safety as our top priority.

    Starting with the 2019 festival season, Forum Music Festivals is putting into effect the following policies:

    • While uninterrupted travel during the late night and early morning is not prohibited by law, we recognize that night-time driving can contribute to drowsiness in the driver. We strongly encourage groups to plan alternate itineraries to avoid a late evening departure. For that reason, trips will no longer be booked by Forum Music Festivals that require drivers to drive between the hours of 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM. Drivers must be off the clock during these middle of the night hours.
    • Seat belts will be requested and provided unless otherwise notified.
      • Please not California law now requires seat belts be worn in buses equipped with them
    • If a district has a list of pre-qualified charter bus companies, we will confer with our client and double check the charter company’s safety record so we may abide by the district’s guidelines.

    Federal Regulations mandate that…

    • Motorcoach drivers cannot drive more than 10 hours in a 24 hour period.
    • Motorcoach drivers may not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours.
    • Motorcoach drivers must have at least 8 hours off before their next shift can start (some bus companies may require more).
    • Motorcoach drivers may not drive after 60 hours on duty over seven days or after 70 hours on duty over eight days.
    • Driver hours are now tracked using electronic logging devices.

    California regulations mandate that…

    • Charter buses and drivers who transport California students must complete SPAB certification. SPAB stands for School Pupil Activity Bus and is certified through the California Highway Patrol (CHP) .
    • Effective July 2018, California State Law SB20 requires that both drivers and passengers wear seat belts. Parents, guardians or chartering companies are being held responsible for making sure children 16 and under are buckled up. ANY charter bus manufactured with seat belts traveling through the state of California, regardless of where they originated, must comply with this law. Directors and chaperones must ensure all students are wearing seatbelts. Fines will be written for offenders.

    We believe this new policy will enhance the experience for groups who trust us with selecting and planning their charter bus transportation.  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.

    The Nuts and Bolts of Fundraising

    Fundraising – not exactly the reason you entered music education, is it?  However, if you plan to travel with your students, it’s time to face the fact that fundraising is part of your program.

    Couple of tips about raising funds for student travel:

    How much will it cost?  Include the base price of the trip, extra outings, and transportation (can be a biggie).  Will chaperones pay their own way or should fundraising cover their portion?  Knowledge is power, right?  Don’t be daunted and think that wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’ are going to get the job done.  Just find out how much the trip will cost.  A travel planner can work to whittle down the costs within your budget.

    Involve parents early.  Parents are full of fundraising ideas.  Consider launching a parent-operated fundraising committee.  The more parents are included, the more successful your fundraiser.

    Children, Go Where I Send Thee!  Do students want to go where you want to take them?  Enlist their suggestions and earnestly listen to their ideas.  Your enthusiasm will be contagious.  If students don’t want to go on your trip, back-burner that destination. Explore other more student-appealing options.

    Financial deadlines.  Once you have costs, settle on due dates with your travel planner.  Your travel planner will provide a detailed itinerary with trip inclusions and what is not included. Cancellation dates and attrition policies should be clear.   Give yourself time to collect straggling payments, to deposit monies, and to prepare your payment. Give your families due dates of at least a week prior to the deadline.

    Speaking of itineraries…  If you add director-arranged activities to your itinerary, keep your travel planner in the know.  Changes add bus hours.  Due to laws controlling hours of service PLUS the bus’s Electronic Logging Devices, your bus moves must be carefully evaluated.  Weather conditions, traffic congestion, and unforeseen issues with illness or tardiness will all affect your driver’s hours of service.

    How will money be handled?  Only you can answer this question based on your booster club’s process or your district requirements.  Having one or two persons in charge of finances makes it easier.  Regular reports should be due to you and your booster board. Other booster members should audit the funds. Selecting people who respect confidentiality helps families feel secure about sharing financial concerns.

    Be sensitive.  Recognize your music families’ economic situation.  Having lofty goals for a trip of a lifetime is fine, but if students can’t raise the funds, adjust expectations.  Some anxious parents may not want students to venture from home or to fundraise.  Meet individually with those parents so no one is embarrassed.  Do you have a “scholarship” fund set up for students who cannot provide family funds?  Discuss this concern early with school administration and/or with your booster club.   Explore potential sources of revenue for those students. Forum Music Festivals’ scholarship program discounts trips for returning schools and directors.  SYTA (Student Youth Travel Association) offers scholarships through their SYF fund.  Many community organizations offer financial assistance if they are aware of the need.

    Sales Promotion 101.  Let the world know your group is fundraising.  Use social media including a hashtag that students can use.  Make school-wide public announcements.  Ask community clubs for donations. Enlist the local newspaper for publicity.  One director schedules his choir to sing at restaurant openings, or Kiwanis or Rotary Club meetings.  A small town orchestra director sets up string quartets to perform outside local stores, and hosts community concerts (for a small fee, of course).  Invite important sponsors to concerts, rehearsals, and any pre-trip launch parties you may have.

    Creating partnerships with area businesses is a win/win for students AND business owners! Counting on community pride, student travelers involve the community when heading to a new destination and return home to share the experience.

    Fundraising ideas are endless and can be fun. Provide some selling tips and pointers about sales etiquette. This may be the first time students have ever “sold” or asked for donations.  Don’t be discouraged by the amount required to take the trip.  Just get started.  Your students will discover a view of the world that they will never forget.

    Introducing Your Trip Assistant

    When you take a group on an overnight excursion, you are responsible for keeping track of EVERYTHING!  A tour escort can solve that task by making sure that you are where you need to be on time and with whatever you need.  At Forum, we can arrange for a Tour Escort for you – meet you when you arrive by bus or plane, check your group into the hotel, tell you when you need to be back at the bus, and the list goes on and on.  But that kind of service, as helpful as it is, does increase the cost of your trip.  And what traveling student group wants to spend additional money?

    At Forum, our itineraries are so comprehensive that you really don’t need a tour escort.  And 24-hour travel assistance is always available to you.  Now, we’ve introduced yet another new feature for overnight and touring groups: Your Trip Assistant.

    Your Trip Assistant is a convenient, customized alert system for directors of overnight groups.

    Once you “opt in,” we will text itinerary reminders to you throughout your trip, as needed.  Text messages apply only to your trip; we do not use them for sales or marketing purposes. It’s like a digital tour escort on your phone!  You won’t miss your performance time or the downbeat of your symphony performance.  A text reminder will arrive on your phone when it’s time to board the bus for your next destination, meal, or performance.

    One more thing – Your Trip Assistant is a complimentary “opt in” value added feature of your overnight travel package at no additional cost to you or your group!

    Whatever tools we can provide to make your travel easier and worry free, we’re happy to do.  We’re dedicated to helping you do what you do best:  make great music and wonderful memories for your students!  For more information, request a quote today.

    Problem-Solving – Our Specialty

    If customer service is important to a company, the question to ask is:

    What problems are we trying to solve for our customers?

    To answer that question, student event producers have to walk in the shoes of band, orchestra, and choir directors.  At Forum Festivals, here’s what we’re seeing.

    • Financial – Yep, no question about it. If you are teaching students and wanting to introduce them to live performances and adjudicated opportunities, then raising funds definitely figurs into your daily concerns.
    • Recruitment – Perhaps more than any other subject, teachers in the arts have to think about how to recruit new students and motivate current students. Why should this difficult? Because kids have a huge desire to participate in music, theatre, and arts, but the many pressures and choices they face can make it difficult. So, how do you keep the party going?
    • Maintaining excellence – You didn’t go into teaching music to teach mediocre performing ensembles. You are hoping to showcase your excellent ensemble. But how do you motivate your students to commit to a successful outcome?
    • What is my purpose? I’ve stood at many a Music Ed conference chatting with music educators who are struggling with the everyday-ness of their interactions with administrators, parents, and students.  You were a person who loved music, loved young musicians, and wanted to share the enthusiasm.  But did you realize how difficult it was going to be to stay focused and enthusiastic about your vocation?

    So, what kinds of suggestions and tools can we offer you?

    • Promote Advocacy – helping to promote YOUR program to YOUR community and administration will help you with a couple of things. If your group can perform for local civic organizations, fast food restaurant openings, or before City Council or Chamber meetings, you’ll not only gain exposure within the community, you may also garner a few bucks towards your fundraising goal.
    • Embrace a little fun in your schedule. Your program is competing against a host of other enticements for your students – sports, video gaming, social lives, or just plain apathy.  Nothing breeds success like success!  Plan a trip that incorporates educational elements but also some time for your group to develop a little camaraderie and have some good fun!  Word gets out that the music department gets to go somewhere and have some awesome experiences and …tah dah! Your program grows!
    • Keep your own learning going! Students want to be part of a successful program.  They don’t want you to help them be just mediocre.  Instead, they are counting on you to be excellent, too!  An adjudicated festival offers a key here: we put college and professional adjudicators in front of your ensemble. They have things to say that teach, motivate, and offer you more tools for your own tool kit.  At Forum Festivals, we encourage your students to see and hear other student ensembles at festival.  Learning happens and, what do you know?  It is enjoyable!  Performing AND listening – it’s just so important!
    • Do what it takes to cultivate your purpose. Getting outside of yourself and your classroom would be a great place to start!  Chances are your own great memories of music studies include a trip with your music class, a performance that had a big impact, or an encouraging word from another director, music student, or music professional.  Don’t forget about these moments and strive to create those memories for your students.  Networking at festival pertains to you as well – let college level adjudicators and other directors get to know you and your talents as an outstanding music educator. Learning how other ensembles do it is another part of your learning process.

    At Forum Festivals, brainstorming with you to plan a great experience for your students is a very enjoyable part of our purpose.  In our own toolbox, we have lots of ideas for…

    • Inexpensive overnight trips.
    • Theme park choices that include performance or workshop options.
    • Performing outside the festival.
    • Destinations throughout the country with many cool things to put in front of your students.
    • How to feed and water your herd! We can suggest lots of ideas for inexpensive meals.
    • Shaking up your program – that is, doing something different or outside the box to stimulate your students’ interests.
    • Fundraising options – there are millions of ideas here. Note: Forum has a longstanding scholarship program for returning schools.

    Customer service is not just a phrase to us – it’s our goal to provide the best service you will experience.  Feel free to call us to discuss your individual needs for your school.  We’re happy to hear your challenges and we’re dedicated to finding some solutions that fits your program!  We’d love to welcome you and your students to a Forum Music Festival!  Give us a call at 1-888-76-FORUM.

    Let Us Create Your Custom 2019 Package

    Thank you to everyone who joined us in 2018 for another great season of making music! We are accepting registrations for 2019 already and we’d love to put together a custom proposal for you and your students.

    May we suggest a new itinerary for 2019?

    We offer festivals in the Anaheim area, San Diego, North Los Angeles, and San Francisco – trips can be tailored to your specific requests and budget.

    San Diego is a great, affordable option, especially for Southern California groups. Enjoy SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo plus a visit and performance on the USS Midway. Experience Old Town with an authentic Mexican meal. Soak up the sun at one of the local beaches. We’d love to make arrangements for your students in this fabulous SoCal destination.

    We also have great options for students in San Francisco. Explore the city with your very own step on guide from the comfort of your own bus.  Visit the San Francisco Symphony or Ballet. Don’t miss the latest Broadway production! Immerse yourself in Chinatown with a lavish traditional Chinese dinner. Experience Pier 39 and get hands-on at the Exploratorium.  There is so much to offer in this city for students of all ages and interests.

    Interested in travel outside of California? Our sister company, Forum Educational Travel, would love to plan your adventure to the destination of your choice – have you considered New York, DC, New Orleans, Orlando, Seattle, or Cincinnati? There are so many fabulous options for theatre, dance, art, history, science and more!

    May we put together a custom proposal for 2019 for you?  We’d love to get started early to lock in the lowest rates and prime availability.  Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working with you again!

    The Five “C’s” of Student Travel

    You’re thinking about including travel in your curriculum this year.  Good for you.  It’s a big step, but very worthwhile in your students’ educational journey.  As you start exploring this idea, consider the five “c’s” of student travel.


    This is what you are already doing – thinking it over to see how it will work.

    • Are my students mature enough to travel away from home for an overnight trip?
    • Are my students’ families motivated to raise enough funds for the trip?
    • Will administration support the trip? To make a case, show studies that youth who travel have better grades, higher graduation rates from high school and college, and greater income than students who do not travel.
    • Why should my students take this trip? What should my students learn that is part of the curriculum?  What will my students learn that is over and above the curriculum?  (Character-building, organization, tolerance, independence, self-control, appreciation for their own situation, to mention only a few.)


    Now, you need to put together a firm plan.  A student travel planner can help design an itinerary for your group with the following factors.

    • Balance education with fun. Can educational events be fun?  You bet, but incorporating some downtime for the group allows for relaxation and group harmony.
    • Understand your school’s policies. Recognize your district’s guidelines and expectations for handling finances and including elements of the core curriculum.  The earlier the better to ensure approvals and smooth planning.
    • Involve your students. Everyone will have a better trip, learn more, and be engaged if students have input.  Successful student travel always includes student involvement and ownership.
    • Make the trip an experience, not just a “sit-down and listen” kind of trip. Today’s students need to touch, feel, and participate.  Hands-on and first-hand experiences are not necessarily part of classroom learning.
    • Be realistic in your expectations for the group. Acknowledge the financial demographic in your school.  Tons of inexpensive things to do exist. Determining a budget that is practical for your group will make the dream trip for your group a reality.
      Finances are only a part of deciding what is appropriate for your group.   For performance groups, how does your ensemble’s ability fit in the activity you’ve planned?  For example, if your students have never participated in a competitive festival or are composed of novice music students, maybe a big league competition wouldn’t be suitable.  Instead, include an activity where students feel positive about the experience.  Set them up for success.
    • Plan your fundraising. Just because your students are from lower income homes, travel is not out of the question.  Multi-layered fundraising includes donations from local businesses, several fundraising events, family contributions, and other creative ideas.  Involving families to help fundraise will increase your success rate, i.e. spaghetti dinners where families join in, gift basket auctions with contributed items, restaurant nights where eating out benefits your program, etc.  Parents and students not only raise money, they have fun doing it and become engaged.  Your travel planner will be able to set up a flexible payment plan to coordinate with fundraisers.


    How many times have we, as travel planners, heard “I have to change my date because testing, prom, other trips (fill in the blank here) was already scheduled.”

    • When you have a date, put it on your school’s master calendar.
    • If you are booking your own bus, get travel dates on the calendar.
    • Give parents travel dates early.  Families need a chance to block the dates before sporting events, a trip to Grandma’s, or a family birthday party gets first dibs.


    Once you’ve decided that a trip is an achievable option, your job is to be your trip’s cheerleader.  Promote it in your classroom, on parent newsletters, at Back-to-School night, on your classroom website, on the answering machine – wherever.  Make a learning schedule so students are ready to focus on the experience.  For a performance group, create a chart for learning their music.  Your own enthusiasm speaks volumes to your students and their families.  Once you take that first trip, large or small, your students will understand the value of an out-of-classroom experience.  The next excursion will be easier to promote.


    Let your students see you enjoying the trip.  Your enthusiasm in executing the trip has a direct result on its outcome.  After the trip, let your students reflect on and enjoy their memories.  Share suggestions together for future trips.  Have them write a mass thank you note or video to administration or to contributors.


    For some students, this trip may have been the first time they ever got out of town.  Trips level the playing field for disadvantaged students, according to Carylann Assante, executive director for Student & Youth Travel Association.  “Field trips give diverse and financially-in-need students equal opportunity to experience things outside classroom that their families may not be able to afford.” 

    According to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, “There’s a reason people say I need to get away and recharge my batteries – there’s truth to it.”   That’s true if you’re fifteen or fifty – we all need a fresh perspective and an opportunity to learn something new.

    The Benefits of Booking Early

    At this time of year, travel planners are probably encouraging you to book your 2019 student trip now.  Take note – booking before the end of the school year definitely has benefits for your trip.

    With early planning…

    1. Your current and potential students get a glimmer of what’s ahead! Excitement builds and recruits students!
    2. More time for fundraising and more time for your students’ families to budget for the trip means higher participation.
    3. Your travel planner has more leverage to book hotels, buses, and attractions at a lower rate. Waiting till closer to your travel date makes fewer choices available and can increase your trip costs.
    4. Your group has a better shot in reserving the attractions that you want. For example, Disney Performing Arts offers wonderful workshops and performances in the parks, but many of the popular dates fill up a year in advance.
    5. Your performing group has more rehearsal time and more time to prepare.
    6. You get your first choice date and destination.

    Start planning and talking up the trip with your students now!  You have everything to win and nothing to lose!  Give us a call at 1-888-763-6786 to discuss ideas and destinations.  Let’s get started on a memorable trip for your program! 

    Ten Things You Should Never Say to Your Music Teacher

    There’s been a volley of comments on the NAfME Music Educator Central Q&A’s.  If you haven’t already joined this community, you might consider checking it out.  It’s a great resource for music teachers to share ideas and solve problems.  Go to www.nafme.org, and then click on Amplify to join the all-member community.  I’m sure many of you could add some interesting comments you’ve heard from students. Here are some of the responses.

    1. Are we playing today?
    2. I forgot my instrument.
    3. This piece is dumb.
    4. Do I have to practice?
    5. My parents bought me this cool purple (insert instrument here)!
    6. I can’t make it to the concert. I’ve got (insert sport here)
    7. I can’t play this.
    8. That’s not how (previous music teacher) did it.
    9. I couldn’t practice this week because my family went shopping on Saturday.
    10. I want my child to play drums, after all it’s just banging and anyone can do that.

    Al-righty then – anyone care to add their own?  Keep your sense of humor and keep moving forward!

    The Fine Art of Chaperoning

    Selecting chaperones is serious business. The right chaperones support you and your students in terms of safety, appropriate behavior, and promoting the goals of the trip. The wrong chaperones assume this is an adult getaway, undermine the trip’s objectives, and are late, rude, and pretty much useless. Let’s vote for the first group of chaperones. How about a couple of tips?
    Knowledge is Power
    Always check first with your administration regarding requirements for adult chaperones. Do chaperones need to be over a certain age? Are fingerprinting or medical clearances required? What chaperone-to-student ratios need to be met? Find out early before you seek out your chaperones. Once you understand the parameters set by the school district, you’re ready to move forward.
    Recruiting Chaperones
    Notify all the parents early so you’ll get a big pool of chaperones from which to choose.  These folks may have to take off work, arrange for alternate childcare, or re-arrange their schedules, so details about times and dates are important before a parent can agree to volunteer.  Once you have a good list of willing parents, it’s time to select your chaperones.  Now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings.  Chaperone choice is based on who would make the best chaperone, not which chaperone is the nicest or gave you the best holiday cookies or has the best trumpet player.  You’ll be thankful you selected responsible parents with positive attitudes who are dedicated to make the experience safe and enjoyable for all.
    Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All…
    Don’t assume that all parents know what to do in every circumstance. Prepping your adults before the trip will go a long way to a safe and enjoyable experience for your students.  Let them know what MIGHT happen so they can prepare.
    Scheduling and Calendaring
    Have a meeting to distribute a schedule of events with important times and locations.  Include meal information, meeting times, departure times, and performance times. Emphasize punctuality.  Now’s a great time for parents to ask questions.
    Assign Students to Chaperones
    After matching students to chaperones, provide chaperones with parent’s phone numbers, emergency medical forms, lists of medications, potential allergies, or any other tidbits of information that will assist the adult to look after their charges. It seems pretty obvious, but be sure every chaperone on the trip has a phone number for every other chaperone, the group leader, the hotel, the bus driver, and each student’s cell phone number.
    Be specific about what the chaperone should do in case of illness or injury.  Have a plan in place and your chaperone will follow it.
    No Alcohol or Tobacco
    Tell chaperones that this is not a time to enjoy a little toddy in the evening.  They are on duty day and night.  And they are setting an example for students.  Make it clear when they sign up, so there’s no confusion later on.  Consider having a signed agreement for the chaperones.
    Younger Siblings – Yes or No?  
    Decide whether you will accept younger siblings on the trip.  They can be a distraction for your chaperones and the trip really is designed for the students, not for little brother or sister.  This is your call and should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
    Dress Code and Language 
    Here’s a biggie and you need to address it.  Chaperones should wear appropriate and modest clothing. You may need to be specific about exactly what that means. And it should go without saying that chaperones should always use acceptable language.
    What if Students Don’t Mind Their P’s and Q’s?  
    Chaperones need to know what you’d like them to do if students are not following directions or showing disrespect to adults or fellow student travelers.  Most group leaders will want you to refer the matter to them.  Above all, chaperones shouldn’t lose their cool with any student, including their own.  Calm and serenity are the keywords here.
    Night Time Procedures
    Do you want chaperones to check student rooms?  Are you “taping the door” at the hotel?  You might consider hiring a local security firm to monitor the rooms.  Just make it clear to the adults on your trip what your expectations are for them at night.
    It’s Not About You
    Although the trip will likely be enjoyable for everyone, adults are there to be helpful to the students, spend quality time with their child, and to promote the trip’s objectives.  Oh, one more thing – the adults are their chaperones, not their besties.  Being cool and bending the rules or favoring a son or daughter’s best friend over other students is unfair, possibly dangerous, and embarrassing when the group leaders calls out the chaperone in front of the group.
    And the Big Finale…
    You can’t create this memorable experience for your students without chaperones.  So, saying thank you to these important people is a big deal. Ideas abound for properly thanking your chaperones and I’ll bet your students could come up with more.  But rewarding your chaperones with a simple thank you goes a long way to let them know that their contribution was a vital part of the whole educational experience.

    Story of Our Beginning

    I was recently listening to a podcast about a well known clothing company which included the story of their beginning and the development of not only their product, but also their philosophy about the footprint that the founder wished to leave on the world.

    It made me pause to think about Forum Festivals’ early development. The company was founded twenty-three years ago by three music educators, who had created successful music programs at the high school and college level, gone on to carve out successes as festival producers and adjudicators.  It was my privilege to work for and learn from these three. Since 2008, I’ve had the great good fortune to lead this company and continue the good work started 22 years ago.

    Listening to the podcast and others like it, I came to the conclusion that many thriving companies begin because a specific need is not filled out there in the world. (Call me brilliant on that one.)

    Here’s what the “guys” were trying to achieve:

    1. Although each had highly competitive ensembles, they recognized that, in the trenches, what directors really need is for young musicians to be encouraged in their efforts.
    2. Some festivals just don’t provide appropriate venues for performances. Students (and their teachers) simply work too hard to be let down by playing in a school cafeteria or in a gymnasium, so their mission was to use only suitable venues – theatres, auditoriums, recital halls.
    3. Music study is hard work, but it should also be fun. After all, having fun keeps students engaged, allows them to build friendships, and makes recruitment for the music director a little easier.

    When you call our office, you don’t reach a call center nor do you need to explain who you are each and every time you phone. We remember you. There are bigger companies with larger staffs, and they have their place. But you are more than another number to us. You are a valued client and, potentially, a friend.

    Three simple goals – we’re still striving to ensure that we are meeting our founder’s missions.  How’re we doing?

    At this joyous time of the year…

    At this joyous time of the year, we are reflecting on the opportunity we’ve had to work with music educators and students.  It’s an honor and an inspiration to work with you and others who make dreams come true for students of all ages, abilities, and circumstances.  The staff at Forum Music Festivals wishes you a new year that is filled with happiness, hope, and peace.  We hope you’ll take some time to rest and enjoy your holiday with family and friends.

    Our office will be in holiday mode from December 23 through January 2, although we will be picking up phone messages and answering email.  Don’t hesitate to contact us and we will get back to you right away.    Thank you for your continued support for our company.  We look forward to our 23rd year of producing music festivals.  Our best to you and yours…Happy Holidays!

    Free or Nearly Free

    Filling open time with your student group is easy to do, but staying within the budget can present a challenge.  Take heart!  FREE activities can be included in your itinerary that both interest your students AND keep you within budget.  Here’s a list of the top 8… feel free to add your own.

    1. Volunteer to perform at a retirement home, assisted living facility, or a preschool.
    2. Block some time for walking around. Check out San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, or Fisherman’s Wharf.  Explore San Diego’s Seaport Village, historic Old Town or beautiful Balboa Park.   Or stroll through Los Angeles’s famous Farmers Market, a self-guided tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall or Downtown L.A.
    3. Head to the beach. Plan a beach bonfire or check out tide pools at La Jolla (San Diego) or Corona del Mar or Crystal Cove in Newport Beach.  What a great bonding opportunity for your students!
    4. Arrange a group picnic at Griffith Park in L.A. or the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. San Diego is full of parks and beach communities that welcome picnickers.
    5. Museums are great treasures, and many offer free or very low cost admission including…
      1. Los Angeles/Anaheim areas
        1. California Science Center
        2. The Getty Center
        3. Hollywood Bowl Museum
        4. The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens (selected dates)
        5. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
        6. Norton Simon Museum
        7. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana (performance opportunity here as well)
      2. San Francisco
        1. Asian Art Museum – free first Sunday of every month
        2. Cable Car Museum
        3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
        4. Wells Fargo History Museum
        5. The Presidio
    1. Presidential Libraries – California boasts two Presidential Libraries and both include many points of historical interest. Not always free, but discounted student prices are available as well as performance opportunities. The Nixon Library in Yorba Linda (Anaheim area) has a low admission price, but offers free educational tours.  The Reagan Library (Simi Valley – north of Los Angeles) features permanent and temporary exhibits including a close-up look of Air Force One at discounted pricing.
    2. Plan a scenic drive. Drive through San Diego’s 59-mile scenic drive or through the neighborhoods of San Francisco or along Pacific Coast Highway in L.A.  Include a step-on guide on your bus for a small fee and give your students a greater appreciation of the beauty of each city.
    3. Take them out to the ball game. Not exactly free, but tickets to a professional ball game are inexpensive and a treat for students.  Check out the L.A. Dodgers, Anaheim Angels, San Diego Padres, or San Francisco Giants.  Many teams also offer all-you-can-eat student packages.

    We’d love to hear from you about other free or nearly free activities that you’ve included in your student travels.  Post some ideas on our Facebook page. Great ideas are definitely worth sharing!

    Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego

    Let’s face it – It’s hard to argue that San Diego doesn’t have one of the country’s great climates.    Attractions and activities for students, both indoor and outdoor, are endless and diverse. It’s just simply an awesome destination for student groups.

    • The Beaches – Ranked among the top in the nation, San Diego offers 17 miles of coastline with an ample array of beaches.  With a little creativity, groups can enjoy sandcastle-building, surfing, picnicking, and bonfires.  Mission Beach with Belmont Park (a nearby boardwalk amusement park) has a youthful, fun vibe.  Beach bonfires are a possibility at Coronado Beach, La Jolla Shores, Ocean Beach, and Mission Beach.   Imagine your group enjoying a group picnic with sand games, great food, and singing by a beach bonfire!
    • Seaport Village combines souvenir shopping with on-your-own dining (including budget-friendly meal vouchers), and an option for performing.
    • Old Town San Diego invites visitors to meander through its historic buildings and discover not-to-be-missed Mexican cuisine. Affordable and convenient, Old Town is just a few minutes from Mission Valley.
    • Balboa Park offers 15 museums, spectacular gardens, public organ concerts on Sundays, and the famous San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Model Railroad Museum, Museum of Man, Museum of Art, and the Natural History Museum among many others contribute to Balboa Park being referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West.”
    • The USS Midway Museum is a retired aircraft carrier and floating museum. One of San Diego’s most popular attractions, the USS Midway was the 20th Century’s longest-serving US Navy aircraft carrier.  The museum also offers limited performing opportunities on deck.
    • SeaWorld San Diego is a popular marine-life park on Mission Bay. Enjoy shows, experience thrill rides, and explore aquariums to learn about amazing animals.
    • San Diego Zoo Safari Parklocated in nearby Escondido, is a hands-on safari experience where animals are free to roam in their natural habitat. Close encounters with the animals include exploring walking trails, riding in a caravan truck, cart, and even a zip line.
    • San Diego Symphonygreat music to be found here featuring world-class musicians at student-friendly pricing. Copley Symphony Hall opened in 1929 and provides a beautiful backdrop to some of the world’s greatest music.
    • Hornblower Cruises – Take a 2-hour Bay Cruise around the famous landmarks of San Diego or enjoy a dinner cruises as a finale salute to a great weekend.
    • San Diego Padres is a great option for student groups, Enjoy the game at Petco Park. Including a ball game in your itinerary is an easy way to corral your group for a fun experience, feed them all, and enjoy America’s pastime.
    • Museum of Making Music – Located north of San Diego proper in Carlsbad, the Museum of Making Music (also known as the NAMM museum), has unique exhibits, live performances, and creative educational programs.

    If you’re considering a relaxed trip for your group, San Diego encompasses historic, cultural, and fun experiences for your student.  Two and a half hours south of L.A./Orange County area, a customized itinerary will showcase options hand-selected to interest your group and budget.  Contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com to start the ball rolling for another great city to explore with your students.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area.

    Adjudicators and Adjudication

    We’re really proud of the guest music educators that adjudicate your groups each year.  Because Forum Festivals was founded by music educators, the individuals who “judge” your ensembles are very important to us and should be important to you and your students.

    Adjudicators are selected based on several key criteria:

    1. Experience
      Members of our adjudication team possess a solid history of successful music programs. Many have college-level experience, but they worked their way up through younger grades to the college level.  They know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a middle school or high school director.
    2. Attitude.
      Forum Music Festivals is a supportive festival company.  Judges are required to provide constructive feedback.   If an adjudicator feels something isn’t right, he or she should tell the director how to fix the problem.  Being positive and affirming is key!  We are trying to encourage young musicians, not discourage their efforts.
    3. Written and digital recordings.
      Judges should write comments that reflect the major points made on the digital recording. Recordings are used in the classroom as a teaching tools, so comments should address both the director AND the students.
    4. National music standards.
      Adjudication is based on national music standards, but adjudicators want to know about unusual circumstances, disadvantages, or situations that can shape your performance.  For example, does your class meet daily or once or twice per week?  Is your program in a “building” year with fewer returning than new students?  Are there funds for an accompanist or to purchase music scores & instruments, or to finance instrument repair?  Have significant changes occurred with directors or students? The ensemble is still adjudicated according to proper standards for their grade and age, but knowing your situation allows the adjudicator to offer ideas based on your group’s budget or needs.
    5. Collaboration.
      Adjudicators on our festival team confer with each other to provide the best feedback designed for your group’s growth.  By collaborating, they select students or sections from each ensemble for the Outstanding Musicianship Award. The judges select these students as beneficiaries of an unbiased assessment based on the performance itself.  Directors usually appreciate having this role shifted to the judges.

    Our goal is to partner with you to provide a little inspired motivation to keep kids in music!  And we’re inspired by the professionals who not only learned something along their own musical journey, but also wish to share their expertise and encouragement with young music students and directors.

    Do I Need a Travel Planner?

    Well, the obvious answer is YES! 

    Sure, you can book a bus and book a hotel.  And you can think of things for your students to do, to eat, to learn.  But don’t discount what a travel planner has to offer your group:  on-the-ground experience, safety concerns, and financial security.

    Do what you do best: teach music! Booster parents can be useful, but they come and go.  Establishing a relationship with a trusted travel planner lightens the load for you, both time-wise and stress-wise.  Working with someone who knows your school community, understands your travel history, and can design a trip that excites your students to learn is simply invaluable.

    Get real about your personal time limitations.  While you’re researching hotels and charter bus companies, you aren’t prepping for or teaching your classes,  rehearsing for your concerts, returning phone calls and emails, repairing instruments on-the-fly, selecting music, or any of the myriad number of other details you’re required to do.   To plan a successful trip, you must devote some serious time to planning and implementing trip details.  A travel planner manages those details with experience and expertise.   Connected with many contacts in the travel industry, we get results for competitive hotel rates, insider tips for attractions, and pricing discounts that reflect the business that we generate.   Just as you wouldn’t ask someone who can sing “Happy Birthday” at a birthday party to teach students to sing or play an instrument, you wouldn’t expect a music teacher to replace a travel professional whose career is devoted to organizing student group trips.

    How does a travel planner ensure that my trip will be as safe as possible? We regularly inspect hotels and attractions, so we can steer groups away from problematic accommodations and activities. Our standards for hotels means you can count on a clean, secure, and comfortable night’s sleep. Our itineraries are designed to comply with laws regarding driver’s hours of service.  We’ve developed relationships with motor coach companies whose focus is safety.    24/7 phone support is always available, if emergencies arise.  Our goal is to continually meet and exceed professional standards and offer the best service possible for student groups.

    First things first, right?  The basics are important, but a travel planner focuses on more than the basics.  Logistics, transportation timelines (how long does it take to get from A to B?), budgetary concerns (what can we do within our budget), suggestions for group meals (meal vouchers, student-friendly restaurants, hotels with complimentary evening socials, breakfast options, etc.), suggestions for performing, suggestions for curriculum-led activities – all are part and parcel of overseeing an itinerary that allows your group to enjoy a fantastic trip of a lifetime.

    Professional memberships do count! The pre-eminent organization that promotes safe, professional student travel is SYTA –Student Youth Travel Association.  In order to join, tour operators must agree to follow a code of ethics that includes honesty and integrity, truth in advertising, commitment to satisfaction, professional conduct, and compliance with the law.  In addition, several states require tour operators to register and be certified as sellers of travel.  There are financial requirements that must be met.  We are also proud to be members of Nafme (National Association for Music Education), the String Industry Council of ASTA (American String Teachers Association), and ACDA (American Choral Directors Association).   All of these organizations promote and encourage business partnerships that advance music education including a learning environment where travel plays a part.

    You need a logistics-expert that strikes a balance between the needs of your group, stays within your budget, and provides support from the first phone call to the end of the trip.  You need a travel planner that incorporates fun AND education.  You need a travel planner who is dedicated to delivering a smooth and worry-free trip. So, do you need a travel planner?  The answer is a resounding YES!  And we want to help you plan a trip of a lifetime!

    Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area

    Head one hour north, south, or east of the City by the Bay, and you’ll find destinations with fascinating student attractions.  San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara, home to Silicon Valley attractions, are easily reachable south of San Francisco.  Heading north to Sonoma County, you’ll find Santa Rosa, Muir Valley, and beyond where student visitors find some unique and amazing attractions.  And on the yonder side of the Bay (and north) you’ll discover another excellent theme park and other educational options.  Check out these possibilities…

    • Visit California’s Great America, one of Northern California’s most treasured theme parks, for a day of shows and thrill rides. Educational days (Math/Science/Physics) are offered on closed-to-the-public days, but our groups are welcome to join in. Student groups can also perform in the park.  For more scoop, email us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.
    • Discover the much talked-about Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Built by rifle heiress, Sarah Winchester, it is endlessly fascinating to student groups for both its beauty as well as its mysterious curiosities.
    • The Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose is an intriguing, budget-friendly museum showcasing exhibits, workshops, and experiences to inspire even the most serious future innovator. Incorporating hands-on vibe, the museum includes an IMAX theatre, exhibits in biotechnology, cyber safety, robotics, health care, and so much more!
    • The Symphony Silicon Valley offers classic programs with a professional symphony orchestra composed of musicians who are recognized as among the best in the Bay Area.
    • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of the last great seaside amusement parks, treasures its amazing history since its opening in 1907. Two of its rides are designated National Historic Landmarks.  About 1 1/2 hours south of San Francisco, the park includes boardwalk food delights; indoor arcades, a 2-story miniature golf course, as well as thrill rides. It lies on a pristine span of beach along the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
    • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, located in Vallejo (north of San Francisco), boasts thrill rides, family rides, animal attractions, and entertainment. Six Flags also welcomes student entertainers who want to perform in the park.
    • Chabot Space & Science Center, located in East Bay’s Oakland, was founded as an observatory in 1883, but now includes interactive exhibits, workshops, plus Planetarium shows that explore the mysteries of space as well as the equally mysterious planet Earth. The museum stands as a leading center for informal science education.
    • Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center – Who doesn’t know Charlie Brown? Visit his understated creator’s museum to learn about the man behind Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and the rest of the gang.   School tours are available along with hands-on cartooning classes, viewing collections, and workshops of many topics of interest. The museum resides in Sonoma County in the City of Santa Rosa, about 1 ½ hour north of San Francisco.
    • Muir Woods National Monument is an old grove redwood forest located in Mill Valley. Though parking is quite restricted, tour companies do bring groups to Muir Woods.    With 6 miles of trails including a ½ hour loop, a 1 hour loop, and a 1 ½ hour loop, Muir Woods also offers educational programs as well as a short program with a park ranger.  Because there’s no cell service or WiFi at Muir Woods, there’s a chance your students will encounter nature with no distraction.

    Possibilities abound for customizing a trip that appeals to both your group’s interests and budget.   Linking one or more of these options along with a day in the City offers your students a great mix of adventure, education, and culture.  We’re here to suggest some great options for your next itinerary.  Email us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego.

    Explaining Copyright

    If you have performed with us in the past, you know that original conductor’s scores are required for the adjudicators.  Following your performance, the scores are immediately returned to you.  As artists and educators, you should know and understand why original music is necessary at festival.

    Respecting creativity is at the center of copyright law.  Music educators are obligated to follow US copyright laws, but they also have the opportunity to teach students about what intellectual property means.  Students can learn about copyright by understanding how creative people make a living and what it means when their own creative work is respected and recognized.   Kids tend to appreciate fairness, perhaps more than many adults.  Copyright doesn’t just extend to the music industry, but the broader creative community can include literature, art, legal documents, technology, and so much more!  Suggested lesson plans can be found at www.nafme.org/my-classroom/copyright/.

    NAfME explains on their website at some great depth the ins and outs of copyright owner’s rights and how this impacts music educators.  (www.nafme.org/my-classroom/use-by-educators/.)

    Reproducing music scores is expressly prohibited in the following circumstances:

    1. Copying to avoid purchasing.
    2. Copying music for any performance (emergency exceptions may apply)
    3. Copying without including a copyright notice
    4. Copying to create compilations
    5. Copying materials meant to be consumable – (workbooks, answer sheets, tests).

    We are often asked about music that is out of print.  Copying out of print works is not permissible without a letter from the publisher.   You can find a sample form on the NAfME website that you can use to request permission to reproduce the piece for the group’s usage.  www.nafme.org/wp-content/files/2014/05/AppendixE1-pdf

    Do yourself and your program a favor – take a moment to educate yourself about copyright law.  NAfME (National Association for Music Education) as well as the government site – www.copyright.gov are two places to start.   ASCAP also has extensive information on copyright.

    As an educator AND a musician, you’re providing a good example by recognizing both the spirit and the letter of the law.  And teaching your students to do the same encourages them to be aware of the value of creative endeavor – their own and others.

    Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco

    Without a doubt, San Francisco is one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting cities. Attractions, food, and student activities flourish in an atmosphere rich in abundant cultures and traditions.

    Among the most desired cities for student travelers to explore, it’s not difficult to fill your itinerary with interesting and educational pursuits. Discover what each of the city’s unique neighborhoods and districts offer.

    Fisherman’s Wharf – just the name is so renowned that you don’t even need to identify the city. Souvenir shops, delicious chowder served in sourdough bowls, harbor cruises, and don’t forget sea lions – all enjoyed as part of this wonderful waterfront attraction.

    • Pier 39 features include dining, entertainment, shopping, plus a picture-postcard backdrop of the skyline. Bubba Gump’s, Hard Rock Café, and more group-friendly restaurants are located here.
    • Alcatraz started out as the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast. It became a federal prison for the infamous and notorious in 1934. Self-guided tours available. Night-time tours book quickly. Operated by the National Park Service, Forum Festivals is a valued partner tour operator.

    Chinatown – San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and one of the largest in the United States. The 24 blocks of this incredibly culturally-rich district is best explored on foot. “Dragon’s Gate,” the entrance to Chinatown, sits at Grant Avenue and Bush Street. Unique shopping, a Fortune Cookie Factory (tours available) plus incredible cuisine awaits the traveler. Talk to us about booking an authentic Chinese meal in a group-friendly restaurant in this don’t-miss neighborhood.

    North Beach – Just as Chinatown is a city within a city, so is North Beach. San Francisco’s beloved Little Italy features delicious Italian cuisine, gelato, pizza (that’s Italian, right?).

    • Nearby Coit Tower offers stunning 360 views of the City and a chance to see the restored murals painted by a group of 26 Depression-era muralists The artists were hired by the Public Works of Art Project (pre-cursor to WPA) to represent the San Francisco life of that day.

    The Golden Gate Park – Miles of beautiful green lawns, thousands of flowers, and many great experiences await. Included in this 1,017 acre park are museums, gardens, windmills, and, yes, buffalo.

    • The de Young Museum features an amazing permanent collection of American art, plus exhibits of modern art, textiles, photography as well as a ninth-floor Observation Level with breath-taking City and Ocean views.
    • California Academy of Sciences include an aquarium, a planetarium, and natural history museum under one roof. A 4-story living rainforest and fascinating planetarium shows make this a popular destination for student travelers. Tours available.
    • The Park includes many other experiences and attractions including:
      • Spreckels Lake or Stow Lake
      • Dutch and Murphy Windmills (February or March is tulip time)
      • Buffalo Paddock (Yep – real buffalo live here)
      • the National AIDS Memorial Grove
      • San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers
      • Music Concourse – Located in the center of the museum area, there are free performances on Sundays from April through October.

    Music! Music! Music! – No question that San Francisco and surroundings offer music students opportunities to enjoy and perform!

    • San Francisco Symphony – With a distinguished standard of excellence, the San Francisco Symphony offers an impressive array of prestigious conductors and artists, including current music director, Michael Tilson Thomas. Committed to music education, the Symphony offers family-friendly concerts and welcomes student groups throughout their season.
    • SF Jazz Center offers school day concerts with curriculum to connect students to jazz. Classes, performance opportunities, and more reinforce their commitment to jazz education.
    • San Francisco Conservatory of Music – Just a 3-minute walk from Davies Hall, the SFCM offers a full calendar of musical events and pre-arranged campus tours.
    • Singing in San Francisco – The City is full of so many options for choirs and singers. Check many of them out at www.singinginharmony.org/sanfrancisco

    Other Points of Interest:

    • Golden Gate Bridge – Can a trip to San Francisco be complete without seeing the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge? Built in 1937, it was considered the “bridge that couldn’t be built.” Famously rising through the legendary San Francisco Fog, the best way for a group to experience the bridge is on a bus. Parking is very limited, but there’s a welcome center, outdoor exhibits, free walking tours twice-weekly (Thursdays and Sundays).
    • Grace Cathedral – Located in historic Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral is renowned for works by Jan Henryk De Rosen, as well as two labyrinths, stained glass windows, and the historic Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. (Their 10:15 AM Sunday rehearsals are open to visitors). Student choirs are welcomed in a “Singing for Pleasure” program – contact us for guidelines.
    • The Embarcadero/Financial District –The Ferry Building houses a public area with a food hall, restaurants, and a farmer’s market. Just a few steps down at Pier 15 is the Exploratorium, an interactive museum with hands-on educational exhibits. A perfect outing on San Francisco’s cold, rainy days, activities abound for all age groups.

    Options for student travel in San Francisco are endless! Talk to us about what interests your group and works within your budget. We’ve got the ins and outs of getting around the city plus the performance options that are available. We are hosting Forum Festivals around the city on nine spring dates in 2018. Don’t miss the chance to introduce your students to an amazing and beautiful city!

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego.

    Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles

    What’s not to love in L.A.?
      The weather is fabulous and there is no shortage of student-friendly activities!

    Educational activities abound in and around Los Angeles!  Incorporate a cross-cultural or cross-discipline activity during your trip and get even more bang for your buck!

    Cultural and musical events –Los Angeles is home to many options for the music student including the Walt Disney Concert Hall which hosts the L.A. Philharmonic among other performing groups, the Pantages Theatre and the Ahmanson Theatre which showcase touring groups of the latest Broadway musicals.  Further south is the Segerstrom Theatre in Costa Mesa which provides an outstanding venue for the Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale, Broadway musicals, and visiting artists.   Local or college theatrical productions can also be an economical, yet entertaining option.

    Museums include the L.A. County Museum of Art, the Norton Simon Museum, the Pasadena Huntington Library (where Pinkie and Blue Boy reside), the Getty Center, the Autry Museum of the American West, and two Presidential Libraries.

    Science centers are terrific cross-disciplinary options.  Check out the California Science Center (where the space shuttle Endeavour currently resides), the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, the famous Griffiths Observatory, the Natural History Museum (love dinosaurs?  You’ll love it here.)

    Movie History buffs?  This is the place!  Combine your interest in old architecture with movie madness.  Explore the famous footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  Take a walking tour of Hollywood theatres or buildings used in famous movies.  Take a Starline bus tour of famous homes or spots.  Enjoy studio tours at Sony Studios, Warner Bros., or Paramount Pictures.

    Theme Parks R Us!  Need it be said that the greater L.A. area hosts the most amazing theme parks?  Universal Studios Hollywood boasts a great dining & shopping district at Universal Citywalk plus a large, spotless park featuring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Plan a full day to enjoy Knott’s Berry Farm’s quaint western charm & thrill rides or Disneyland Resort’s two iconic parks with America’s best-loved characters.  Further north, visit Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia for roller coasters galore.

    Beaches – So many beaches, so little time!  A trip to L.A. wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its famous beaches.

    • At the end of Route 66, you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier and beaches! The Pier is a step back in time with a carnival-like atmosphere and fun.
    • The L.A. beach culture includes a stroll at Venice Beach and Boardwalk. Street musicians and entertainers flourish here.
    • South of L.A. are the pristine beaches of Orange County including Huntington Beach (Surf City) which features a beautiful pier. Also, don’t miss Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Seal Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, and many, many more.

    Points of Interests and historical landmarks – California history is fascinating and varied.  Learn about it by enjoying some of L.A.’s most popular sightseeing destinations.

    Olvera Street – the oldest street in L.A. – think Old Mexico Marketplace.  Plan on enjoying some delicious food and cruising through some sweet, little shops.

    Farmer’s Market – located in the Fairfax area, this is the original Farmer’s Market and is a great place to grab a bite and stroll along the food vendors.  Situated right next to The Grove, an upscale shopping area, it is a great place for a group to be able to cut loose a bit of on-your-own dining.

    Central to California’s history are the 21 missions established by the Franciscan order on behalf of the Spanish king during the late 18th century and early 19th century.  Though controversial for the treatment of Native Americans, the establishment of the missions remains a unique staple of California history studied by all California elementary students.  The missions still stand dotting the California landscape and welcoming explorers and history buffs.

    Colleges & universities tours – what a win/win for a student group!  Most (if not all) colleges and universities welcome student groups for campus tours.  The list is endless.  Consult us for specific suggestions that would cater to your group’s interests and itinerary.  Combining a tour with a clinic or educational workshop makes this an even more appealing activity for students, parents, and administrators!

    Just a sample bite from the huge menu of options in Southern California, let us help you put together a customized trip that your students will never forget.  Email us directly at office@forummusicfestivals.com and let’s get the planning started!

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area.

    Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego.

    20 Facts about Forum Festivals

    1. We were founded by 3 music educators.
    2. Our original name was Forum Funtastic Festivals!
    3. We started out only offering Anaheim festivals.
    4. The scholarship program has been part of our operation since Year 1.
    5. Most of our performing halls are on college campuses or community theatres.
    6. We opened a San Francisco Bay Area festival in 2000.
    7. Charter bus transportation is always a value-added option.
    8. Tour and Travel opportunities are our specialty!
    9. Adjudicators are hired for their expertise, constructive feedback, and positive attitude.
    10. Forum Festivals was named for a theatre in Yorba Linda, California.
    11. Besides traditional bands, orchestras and choirs, we’ve also welcomed mariachi, traditional jazz (Dixie), hand bell ensembles, rock bands (okay, maybe only 1), dance teams, show choirs, marching bands, and more!
    12. You only pay for those who play!
    13. We offer packages with theme parks.
    14. We offer packages without theme parks.
    15. We believe in spoken and written adjudication.
    16. Music education and encouragement are foundational in our mission.
    17. Our awards ceremony is held at the performance venue.
    18. Judges’ Invitational is an annual competition for gold-rated ensembles.
    19. A flexible payment policy makes it easy to coordinate with your fundraising.
    20. Our new venture, Forum Educational Travel, offers student travel to out-of-California destinations.

    Bigger Than Ourselves

    I admit, I get a little woo-ey this time of the year.

    As we wrap up and put the cherry on top of on our 2017 festival season, I am reminded of the many fine folks that you, our customer, encounter at festival. Just looking at the sheer numbers of students who share their music at festival reminds me of the potential impact that our staff has. Fact is, lots of people work at festivals or in our office who simply want to make a positive impact on you, your students, and music education.

    In 1961, President John Kennedy was touring NASA when he came upon a janitor mopping the floor. The President asked the janitor what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

    So, that’s kind of how we feel – like that NASA janitor. We’re partnering with you to make an impact in your students’ musical education and, hopefully, in their lives. Without getting too mired in the details, we’re trying to focus on the bigger picture.

    Thank you to an incredible team of adjudicators, announcers, festival managers, runners, front desk staffers, and a very dedicated team in the Forum office. But, I hope you also give yourself permission to recognize your importance to something that is bigger than all of us. You, the music teacher, are making a difference – right now – to an ideal, to a student, to a leader, and to a follower. Here’s a big salute to you for sharing your talents as you contribute to the big picture.


    Let’s talk about clinics…

    Clinics sound so diagnostic and medicinal, don’t they? (Reference: medical students walking around in white lab coats). But music clinics add another valuable tool for earnest music ensembles who want even more feedback and advice.

    1. Consider arranging a clinic before the festival.  Why not bring your best performance to the festival?  Before you leave home, arrange for a college clinician or a respected colleague in your district to come to your classroom and give your ensemble a few pointers.  You and your students can ask more questions, plan more time, and then work with the feedback as you approach your festival performance.
    2. Take advantage of Music Education conferences. Clinics and workshops at state and national music conferences offer dedicated content about all aspects of teaching music.  Practical tips, a Q&A session, rehearsal sessions, and camaraderie with other directors who walk your same path make these opportunities well-deserving of your notice.
    3. Let us help you arrange a clinic during your festival weekend. Mini-clinics offered by other festival companies usually only allot 5 minutes of face time for one of the judges to come onstage to speak to your group.  We don’t offer this at Forum, but we do have terrific resources for a longer, more expanded one-on-one time with a clinician.  Ask us about it – we’re happy to share our resources with you or discuss other options.
    4. Forum Select – let me introduce you! Forum Select began three years ago to provide an expanded post-performance clinic on selected Forum Festival dates. From the performance stage, the group is escorted to a separate room to work with a clinician for 20 to 30 minutes following the performance.  The added expense is minimal, but all reports have been very positive.    When you look at dates on our website, it will indicate whether that date has a Forum Select clinic available.  Email us at office@forummusicfestivals.com for more detail and dates.

    Clinicians love to share their own passion – which happens to be teaching music!  Objectivity is a great leveler and teacher.  If you and your students are open and objective, you’ll likely find support for what you’ve been trying to teach your students all year.  Somehow, the same words coming out of someone else’s mouth is easier heard than those that have been coming out of yours.  I hope you’ll consider adding Forum Select to your festival next season.  We’re putting our best foot forward to help your students do the same!

    Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3

    Contributed by Don Gunderson

    Jr. High/Middle School kids need to see the face of the High School director frequently. Visit, guest conduct on a concert, clinic the festival music. Invite the JH/MS director to guest conduct. Make it a “continuous” program where the students expected to “automatically” continue until graduation. It is a 6 year program.

    The upper level students need to have some experiences the younger musicians don’t get.  Save some activities until HS.

    Invite the  students onto the HS campus frequently throughout the year (Band Night at a FB game, pre-festival concert, combined concerts, etc.) . This is something the “academic” classes are unable to do in terms of recruiting.

    Make the councilors aware of ALL the advantages that kids receive by being part of a quality music program. Collect data re: grade point averages, students in AP classes, quality colleges eager to recruit (and financially support) “band kids” and other distinguishing factors. Point to successful alumni of your program – and NOT just professional musicians, but others who carried their music experiences into other fields.

    You must promote your own program. No one else will.

    Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1.
    Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2.

    Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2

    Contributed by Orrin Cross

    In 1973 I came to a school with no music program, little District money and no parental support. We had some old instruments. I approached this problem by making the music students visible to everyone. I advertised that we would have a marching band and march at football games. The first year I had some students marching who didn’t play an instrument, using rag-a-tag old uniforms and musical instruments, many of which barely worked. I opened the band room doors before school, at lunch, and after school, even finding some old athletic lockers we put in the band room. This was the place for my students. It was home away from home – a safe haven and our “special place.” I ended up 35 in the marching band that first year. They received publicity in the local newspaper, acknowledgement by the student body, and support from parents and the school board. That was 38 years ago. Each year the program grew: adding a jazz band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, and many other ensembles. That program now has 3 concert type bands, two jazz bands, and a marching band of over 200. That band has played at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, in London, and this year in Rome. Needless to say they have the full support of the community, school board, parents, and the school.

    It is OK to start small, make it matter to the students, and watch it grow. It’s worth it.

    Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1.
    Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3.

    Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1

    Contributions by Dr. David Betancourt and Peter Fournier

    Each year around this time, as we are neck deep in Festivals across the state, we realize that you also are neck deep – in festivals, performances, exams, and prepping for your next school year.  Recruitment is a vital part of your prep each year and programs falter and fail without proper investment in recruitment.  We thought it might be helpful to get some advice on recruiting for your music program from experienced music educators – the people who are adjudicating for you at our festivals. We’ve compiled these thoughts and will offer a short blog series over the next few weeks.

    • Collaborate and work with your sister schools and across the grades
      • Start in the fall with inviting the middle school band to attend a home football game at the local or home stadium. Late Oct./Nov. may be the best time for the high school to perform their field show in a special performance for them at half time. Prior to the start of the game or following the field show, the middle school band joins the high school playing the “Fight Song” and/or pep piece for the parents, administrators , etc
      • Take a few student leaders to the JHS and show the video of their performance, followed up later in December (before they start signing up for their HS courses) and have the high school students talk about the band camp, the field show, travel opportunities, performing while marching down Main St. at Disneyland, in parades, and often at various community festivals.
    • Organize concerts between elementary, middle school, and high schools in your district
      • Invite the middle school students to visit your campus by inviting them to perform at your pre-festival concert, spring concert, or host an ensemble or solo festival.
      • If your high school has an orientation assembly, make sure to take the Jazz Ensemble and small ensemble to talk to and play for all the incoming 8th graders.
    • Guest conduct each other’s bands (within your district)
    • Switch roles for a day (with admin permission)

    Watch our blog for additional recruiting suggestions from additional outstanding music professionals.

    Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2.
    Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3.

    My Musical Inspiration…

    Not to get too mushy or maudlin, but I just returned from the CASMEC conference in San Jose and I’m currently overflowing with inspiration.  So, what could be inspiring about standing at a booth all day in the exhibit hall?  Plain and simple, it’s just you…the band, orchestra, and choir teacher.

    “I’m just here to learn something I didn’t know before,” one longtime choral director shared with us.  After 30 years of teaching music, he hasn’t lost the desire to learn something new.

    “Two of my students earned spots in All-State ensembles, but the district wouldn’t help with their expenses to get here.  So, I funded them myself on the “easy payment plan.”  And I’m their teacher – someone should care enough to come support them.”  This is from someone who clearly sees her career as a calling, not just a paycheck.

    “I inherited a ‘winning’ program and my students are bent on winning.  But I’m concerned that this is what they think music is all about.  I’m more interested in teaching them about all aspects of music and challenging them, not just promoting trophy hunts.”

    “I ask myself ‘what am I doing here?’-  I want to teach music that appreciates and speaks to my students’ culture.  Most of my students won’t go on to be music majors, but teaching music is about more than just music.” 

    “My students never get a chance to leave our town.  I want to show them that there is a great big world out there and they should open their minds to it.”

    After twenty-plus years, the stories never end. I’m touched by the thoughtful questions many of you ask of yourselves – how can I do this better?  How can I serve my students? Is it any wonder that we feel motivated to partner with the hardest working teachers on school campuses?

    May I simply say – music matters!   And what you, a music teacher, do also matters.  It matters a great deal.


    Pardon me, I’m new at this. Where do I start?

    Everyone has to start somewhere so pat yourself on the back for taking the first step in arranging a festival for your band, orchestra or choir!

    We hear from newbie directors quite a bit who want to stick their toes in the “festival waters” and need a little extra hand-holding to get there.  And we’re happy to hold that hand!  How about some tips to get the ball rolling?

    1. Consult the school calendar – what dates are available?  Check on testing dates, prom or other important school activities, plus other school trips that may or may not be on the calendar.  (This means you have to talk to other “trip takers.”)
    2. Talk to administration. Make your case and find out what is needed for approval.  Make them be specific so you can take all the proper steps.
    3. Decide on the trip type. Are your students ready for an overnight trip or should your first venture be an all-in-one-day trip? Do you have parental support or a brilliant fundraising idea?  You know your students – are they ready and can they support an overnight trip?
    4. Know where you are headed. If this is an overnight trip, you should ask for a specific itinerary.  If this is a day trip, the financials are a little easier, but you will need to add your bus costs to the whole package. Make sure this is a trip that your students WANT to take.
    5. Talk to your students EARLY. Tell them (and boosters, parents, school administration) that you’d like to take the next step with your ensemble by taking them to a music festival with judges.  Point out that they will have the opportunity to perform in a new hall for a new audience.  And mention the chance this offers students to see and hear other student performances.  Be sure to lay out your musical expectations to your students!
    6. Get a handle on the financials. Find out all the costs – we can help with that.  And determine the due dates.   This will really help with your fundraising plans.   It’s always best to get some kind of early financial commitment from parents, so give them a schedule of due dates.  We strongly suggest that you ask for a modest deposit from parents.
    7. Book your bus. Does your district require that you book the bus from an approved list? Acquaint yourself with laws regarding how many hours a driver can be on duty. We can provide a bus quote, but keep us in the loop about your district requirements.
    8. Fundraising – You will likely need to plan some type of fundraising to make the trip happen. You’re better off to over-estimate your costs, just to prepare for the unforeseen.  There are countless numbers of ways to raise funds.  Brainstorm with your boosters or exchange ideas with your district colleagues.
    9. Deadlines are the name of the game! Make note of payment schedule and allow your students’ families plenty of time before that due date to get their money to you.  You can make decisions about the trip once you have an idea of who exactly is coming, i.e. instrumentation and seating charts, music selection, and rooming lists.
    10. Musical deadlines are also important.  Once you’ve selected your music, give your students musical deadlines to learn the music.  One director made a big chart creating a “race” to learn their music.  Peer pressure is a great musical motivator!
    11. Emphasize grades and enlist support from the other teachers. Using an enrichment opportunity such as performing at a festival can be motivation for teachers and students to encourage performing students to keep up those grades!
    12. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask us questions along the way – we are here to help whether you’re doing a one-day package or custom overnight trip.

    Please know that there’s a lot of support for you!  We work with so many directors who are bringing students to an adjudicated festival for the first time.  We’re happy to make this happen for young musicians.  And, there is nothing like a successful experience for your students.  Chances are … it will linger as a wonderful memory of their school days.

    Taking Your Students to Festival

    Playing music for yourself – there’s nothing like it! But, being part of a performing group is all about feedback – there is no substitute for an audience and its response to your music. The best directors seek opportunities for their fledgling musicians to perform to spectators – not to justify their worth as a director, but rather to better the group’s musical skills, self-confidence, and to hear other student musicians of similar age and ability. Taking a group of music students on the road is an effective way to build your program – lots of work, but oh, the rewards are well worth it. If you are contemplating bringing your group to a festival this season, consider a few tips.

    Plan Ahead
    Can’t say enough about it. You owe it to your students and their parents to prepare them financially, emotionally, and musically. Involve your parent group and administration in your plans early. Get the word out through newsletters, parent meetings, and good old-fashioned rumor to create some enthusiasm with your music families. Build a website about the trip or leave a detailed message on your office answering machine about your program’s events and the progress being made to put the trip together.

    Just Exactly What Am I Getting Into?

    Be realistic about your group. Don’t get caught up in an ego exercise by trying to impress parents, colleagues, or administration – if your students aren’t ready for a highly competitive festival, the results may make them feel badly about their abilities and your program. Perhaps your group is in a building year – they need to perform, but are inexperienced. Festival companies often have non-competitive categories that combine a performance showcase with adjudicator’s constructive comments and the chance to discover how the group stands in comparison to similar groups.

    From “Hot Cross Buns” to Rachmaninoff, Will They Rise To The Occasion?
    Choose appropriate literature …please. Some directors hold fast to the belief that the selection of difficult pieces will positively affect the scoring. The fact is…seeing your students struggle in performance frustrates you and them and does not impress the adjudicator. Learning how to discern your group’s ability and set appropriate goals for your group is what separates the novice from the master!

    Deadlines Are Not The Enemy!
    Music educators are the hardest working teachers on campus! One choral teacher spent every one of HIS lunch hours for months selling goodies to junior high kids to fund the kind of program that he wanted. Admirable? You bet. Necessary? Not really. You will drive yourself to distraction if you shoulder the entire fundraising effort alone. Delegate the fundraising to helpful booster members, if possible. Make it their mission to creatively raise funds, collect money, and do follow-up for the group. Millions of ideas abound for creative fundraisers- just keep the enthusiasm going with parents and students. Don’t be afraid to set target dates for collecting the funds so you build in ample time to identify the students who need extra time or financial help to get them to the festival.

    Musical deadlines are vital. Involve your students in your musical goal-setting. Let them know that doing well matters to you and it should also matter to them. Breaking down the score into “small bites” makes it manageable to learn. After selecting three pieces for festival, one director designed a large chart listing all the student’s names vertically with the selected pieces listed in columns across the top. Dates were set for each student to learn each of the three pieces. Students who didn’t take the responsibility to learn the music were not allowed to go on the trip. Peer pressure is a great musical motivator. It does take some extra time from the director, private teacher, or section leader, but the results are well worth it.

    Realize that transportation rules the world!
    Order the buses as soon as you have a confirmed date. Understand the rules of the bus company – drivers require a certain number of hours “off” before they can drive you home again. For an overnight trip, don’t forget to budget for a driver’s room, if necessary. Consider heavy traffic, late students, bathroom breaks, and a reasonable warm-up period when planning the call time for your take-off. Always confirm your transportation several days before you will need it.

    Festival Etiquette for Young Ladies and Gentlemen
    Ensure that your students’ behavior will prompt a welcome back. Model courtesy and interest when hearing other groups. Teach them some basics about festival etiquette.

    • Never enter the auditorium during a performance.
    • Don’t talk during a performance.
    • Listen attentively. You want others to hear you – accord them the same consideration.
    • Remember – you are a representative for your school and your community – act like it!

    A festival permits your students to better understand their progress and appropriate musical standards for their age. Evaluate the other performances back in the classroom, not loudly in front of all to hear.

    We’ve all seen THOSE groups – running wildly through the facility, speaking loudly during performances, or ignoring other performances completely. All they know is “I’m not at school today.” All the other participants know is “We wish you were.”

    After the Festival
    Your experience doesn’t end when you get back home. It’s always best to listen to the adjudicator’s tapes before you play them for your group. While all festivals aim to hire the best, occasionally an adjudicator may comment on something that may not be appropriate to your situation. Don’t be afraid to edit.

    Use common sense in assessing your group’s performance. Adjudicators hear many groups throughout their careers. Don’t take offense at suggestions or constructive criticism that are offered. Listen, think, and decide if the comment is a valid one, particularly if more than one judge makes the remark.

    Should you compare your scores from one festival to another? Every adjudicator brings his or her own opinions and expertise to a festival. Keep in mind that the very best bands, orchestras, and choirs will perform differently from one rehearsal to the next. You can’t discount the variables in location, sound systems, student (and director) fatigue, and excitement.

    Finally, the most important lesson you will teach your students about music – have fun! Once all the planning is in place, the details delegated, the chaperones briefed, the students practiced and good to go, all you have left to do is to relish the experience with your kids. Your visible enjoyment of the entire festival speaks volumes to your young musicians. And, after all, isn’t the pure pleasure of making music together what music education should be all about?

    Using Your Forum Account Once You Are Registered

    Our website offers many different resources for trip planning. Here are a few tips on how to use our website:

    • Make changes to your existing reservation
      • Log in using your username and password in the right orange box
      • Once logged in, click Manage My Account
      • From here you can update your Reservations, your Schools, and your Profile
    • Submit a payment
      • Log in using your username and password in the right orange box
      • Once logged in, click Submit a Payment
      • Fill in the required forms and the amount (please pull this amount from your separate invoice)
      • Enter your credit card information and click PAY
      • You will receive a confirmation from us when your payment is processed
    • Submit your rooming list for overnight trips
      • Log in using your username and password in the right orange box
      • Once logged in, click Manage My Account
      • Under My Reservations, your existing registrations will be listed
      • If your trip requires a rooming list and a hotel has been selected for your group, you will see a button “Rooming List” next to your reservation
      • Click this link and complete fields as necessary
      • Please note that this rooming list may be used as a working template and you can save and return later to submit changes
      • Your rooming list will be locked on your due date and you will need to contact Forum Music Festivals directly to make any additional changes
    • Download useful forms and get answers to your many questions
      • Our FAQ page has a ton of useful information to answer all of your pressing questions

    How to Register for a Festival

    Thank you for visiting Forum Music Festivals!


    Create a new username/password for our website. Either create a new account or request a password reset (just look for the orange box on the right).


    • Log-on with your username and password and go to Festival Registrations.
    • Select your package options from One Day Park Package, Custom Overnight Package, Judges’ Invitational Competition-One Day, Judges’ Invitation Competition-Overnight Package.
    • Select the blue “New Registration” button.
    • Select your festival location.
    • Select your preferred Festival date and click “Next.”
    • Select your activities – choose from various theme parks or make a note of a custom request under Other.
    • If you have not signed in at this point you will be prompted to do so.
    • Insert your total number of students and chaperones (do not include directors in the chaperone count).
    • Would you like us to include meal vouchers at the theme park? Select the box if so.
    • Would you like us to provide a transportation quote or will you be handling your own transportation? Select your option and then click “Next.”
    • If you have registered before, your school should appear on the next page. Click “Edit” and review for up-to-date information.
    • If you have not registered before or need to add a new school click “Create New School.” Once your information is added, select the button next to the school you are registering and click “Next.”
    • Click “Create New Ensemble” and input the accurate information. Click “Create New Ensemble” for each individual ensemble.  Once all of your ensembles are listed, click “Review Registration.”
    • Review all information on this page. Select the box that you have read our FAQ page and agree to all terms. Include any information in the right orange box that will be helpful for us for scheduling.
    • Hit “Click to Register” or we will not receive your registration – IMPORTANT!
    • You will receive a confirmation page with a link to pay your registration fees or to request an invoice. An emailed and post mailed invoice and contract will be forwarded to you.

    Five ways to kick-start your mojo!

    Whew! Holidays are wonderful, but let’s face it – now the hard work begins: new students coming in, hanging on to seniors (at least mentally), competing with testing, AND preparing for concert and festival season. Here are five tips to help kick-start your own mojo:

    1. Tidy your space. Okay, don’t bail on me now. I admit, I’m an addict to organizational blogs and minimalist entreaties. (Implementing is a lot harder than reading about them). However, de-cluttering your headquarters, even a little bit, helps cast away the heavy “baggage” and moves you full steam ahead.
    2. Step out of the comfort zone. Maybe try out new material, plan new sight-reading exercises, or take a few minutes of fun team-building with your ensemble. Just mix it up a bit is all I’m saying here.
    3. Seek inspiration. Maybe a colleague in your district inspires you. Or maybe listen to your favorite symphonic work that always allows your spirit to soar. Or here’s a good excuse for some binge-watching TV – Amadeus, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Mozart in the JungleMusic of the Heart, Anchors Aweigh – (check out the Hollywood Bowl scene) – whatever inspired you to join this noble profession. So, here’s your permission to find the spot on the sofa and let your muse take over.
    4. Choose an easy start. Select an easy and quick piece for your students to learn. Let them feel victorious right out of the chute in January. Lots of time to add challenging work, and you know it’s coming, but start off the new semester with a big, fat, happy success story.
    5. Add a little self-care to the mix. You’re busy – we get it. But don’t forget to take care of yourself – mentally, emotionally, and physically. It will pay off for you AND for your students. Ideas: cloud-watching, meditation, give yourself a compliment, goof off guilt-free, pet your dog or any dog. You get the idea – easy peasy, but something to give yourself a break.

    Happy Holidays from Forum!

    Our staff at Forum Music Festivals extends our warmest wishes to you for a very happy holiday, whatever and wherever you are celebrating.   I hope you’ll take some well-deserved time to rest and relax.

    We are also taking some time off between Christmas and New Year’s  to spend with family, enjoy way too much rich food, and to gear up for an amazing festival season in 2017.  However,  be assured that we are checking voicemail and emails regularly, so if any questions arise, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We’ll get back to you straight away!

    Thank you for your continued support of our company.  And we appreciate all the great and thankless work you do for your students.  We recognize that music teachers are the hardest working teachers on any campus.  We are always honored to be part of your program.  We look forward to seeing you soon in 2017.

    Happy Holidays!

    Your friends at Forum Music Festivals

    What Can An Adjudicated Festival Do For Your Students?

    Justifying enrichment opportunities for music students can be a little daunting.   Daunting since the reasons for school festival performances are as numerous and diverse as the young student musicians we hope to serve.

    1. An adjudicated performance offers valuable feedback, just as running a race determines if physical training paid off.  Insightful adjudication goes a long way in uplifting and cultivating student performance potential.
    1. Watching other performances is vital to the music student. The brilliant performances or familiar mistakes of other student ensembles can identify needed steps forward for your own ensemble.
    1. Teamwork is not just for sports. By performing for an objective adjudicator, students learn to appreciate every member of the ensemble.  Working towards a group goal drives students to learn to cooperate, solve problems, and share a sense of achievement.
    1. Music study encourages engagement. An education in the arts can be a major factor for some students to stay in school.  It combines personal and social connections.  And it unites the academic with the artistic.
    1. An adjudicated festival should be a supportive environment. It’s hard to say where else students are going to find a scenario that endorses productive risk-taking and the acceptance of critical assessment.  Think about that.  That whole idea is an awesome life lesson.
    1. Fun! Possibly, the most important lesson that a director can teach – have fun!  The planning is complete, the fundraising’s done, the chaperones are briefed, and the ensembles rehearsed.  All that is left is to relish the experience with your kids.  Your clear delight of the festival experience speaks volumes to your student musicians.  And isn’t the pure pleasure of making music together what music education is all about?

    What’s on the Calendar for California Musical Theatre?

    Sometimes there are epic years for students of musical theatre. 2017 happens to be one of those years and we’re seeing a bang-up participation of student groups performing at a festival, then heading to the theatre to enjoy a great evening (or matinee) of entertainment.

    Let us know if you’re interested in introducing your students to some of Broadway’s best. Group tickets are available and we can customize a festival package to include festival, theatre, and dinner.

    Southern California:
    Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa

    March 21 through April 2 – “Finding Neverland”
    April 25 through May 7 – “An American in Paris”
    May 30 through June 11 – “The Bodyguard”

    Pantages Theatre Hollywood

    February 21 through March 12 – “Finding Neverland”
    March 22 through April 9 – “An American in Paris”
    May 2 through May 21 – “The Bodyguard”

    Ahmanson Theatre Los Angeles

    April 4 through May 14 – “Into the Woods”
    May 16 through June 24 – “Jersey Boys”

    Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center

    April 22 – Patti Lupone – “Don’t Monkey with Broadway”


    Northern California:

    March 14 through August 5 – “Hamilton” – Orpheum Theatre
    March 7 through April 2 – “Into the Woods” – Golden Gate Theatre

    San Jose

    March 25 through April 2 – Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Princess Ida” – Lyric Theatre
    April 21 through 30 – “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Montgomery Theatre
    April 25 through 30 – “The Bodyguard” – Center for the Performing Arts


    “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class”

    Remember a few years ago Robert Fulghum’s runaway best seller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?  The list included things like “Share Everything,” and “Take a nap every afternoon,” and my personal favorite – “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”

    The book’s concept was profound and thoughtful.  Recently, I was thinking about it in terms of the music directors that I’ve met through Forum Music Festivals.  So, here’s my take on “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class.” (A little unwieldy, I know, but you get the point).

    1. A positive attitude is better than talent.
    2. Talent isn’t enough – it also takes hard work.
    3. Failure just means you’ll do better next time.
    4. I can be a “doer”, not just an observer.
    5. Sharps are not hash tags (and they came first.)
    6. Stepping off with your right foot does not make you weird.
    7. Singing a song makes it better.
    8. One more time means one more time.

    There are so many more bits of knowledge that wise school music directors collect over a teaching career.  I invite you to share them with us on our Facebook page.


    Great moments over 22 years…

    We’re launching our 22nd season this year.  Lot of years, lot of directors, lots of kids, and lots of stories.  Middle School students who started with us at age 12 would now be 33 years old.  Yikes!  Some bring their own ensembles to a festival.  It’s a sobering thought, but a very gratifying one.

    I remember the director who answered his ringing cell phone while onstage directing his band, then ran down the theatre aisle mid-performance to hand his phone to me.  On the other end was a mom looking for her daughter at the festival.  Wouldn’t you know the daughter’s name was Katie?  There were probably 45 Katie’s at that festival that morning.  Yes, we found Katie.

    Then there were directors who arrived at the festival teary-eyed because they were retiring and this was their last outing with their students.  They cared so deeply for their students over a lifetime of teaching.  Forum Festivals played a part of their programs for so many years.  I was honored that we were friends and partners.  I shall never forget them and I think of them quite often.

    One school’s entire clarinet section forgot their instruments at home a few years ago.  One adjudicator was on the faculty where the festival was scheduled that morning. “Wait just a minute,” he said and he left the theatre.  He scrambled around in the college band room and found clarinets for most of the section. (Yes, they had their own mouthpieces with them – go figure).

    I’ve observed many acts of generosity between music students of different schools. It’s so heartwarming when kids just stand up spontaneously to applaud another school’s performance with no nudging from adults.

    Last year, in the Bay Area, we welcomed a wind ensemble with a very talented young oboe player.  He really was quite phenomenal which became more and more apparent during the performance.  No surprise to anyone that he was awarded an Outstanding Student Musician award.   Following awards, the other students emptied the theatre and formed two lines in the lobby (no prompting from the adults). As the oboist left the theatre and walked between his classmates, they broke out in spontaneous applause, clapping him on the back as he passed.  It meant the world to this young musician. He will never forget it and I was thrilled to be there to experience it.

    So, on the eve of our 22nd season, I’m pondering the stories along with the music that I’ve been privileged to witness.  Over the past 22 years, we think we’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the less-than-graceful.  But most of it has been good – and that is for sure.